Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Local is the new National

I sound like quite the parrot, I know, but it does seem like media is realizing the potential in moving back into local news, local interests. I know in Boston, I sometimes find surprisingly relevant news in the ultra-local Boston Courant* that gets reported in the Times-owned Boston Globe much later, if at all. (*note - they don't even have a website, which is somehow endearing)

The New York Times discusses this trend via the Edible publications. The model is, I think, quite a good one. There is a parent company, which you can see if you follow the link, but then the magazines are local - Edible Brooklyn, Edible Sante Fe, Edible Portland, etc... And it turns out, it's gaining in popularity in certain areas. From the Times:

The business model, in which local publishers pay a franchising fee in exchange for the title and some editorial support, is not unique. In fact, tailoring a single prototype to multiple cities or regions is an increasingly popular publishing format, adopted by magazines focused on weddings, society and restaurant menus.
More specifically:

Edible Communities makes it relatively easy to become a publisher: $30,000 down, the remaining $60,000, financed by Edible Communities, to be paid over five years.

For this the owner gets a crash course for the first four issues in layouts, photographs, advertising, marketing, editorial content. And the owner gets easy access to the other editors, who willingly share their expertise.

The contract requires at least 51 percent editorial content, 75 percent of which must be local. The company offers one national column, but publishers are not required to use it. After the first year the parent company takes a 5 percent royalty of gross advertising revenues.

I guess I wonder how this can apply to books. Publishers haven't really abandoned local markets, and one can certainly see that in Boston. Local publishers publishing on the city and region's history abound. But independent bookstores, in the city itself, do not. But if one were to create something like this for independents, when would it just become a B & N?

Well I suppose one thing is if you had some kind of cooperative system rather than shareholders. It makes me crazy to see Borders and B & N numbers, when profit goes up but not by enough of a percentage to please shareholders, so they start dumping shares, and the price drops. At this point in time, if either one of those corporate giants went out of business, even declared bankruptcy and had to reorganize, it would be a massive blow to publishers and to reading in America. I mean, during the last quarter alone, Borders opened 4 new superstores, and now has 506 across the country.

So what if some kind of bookseller cooperative opened, with national headquarters that provided start-up funds for locals who would focus on local authors and issues? Could be interesting. I'm no economist and this has probably been done, but I know I'm constantly frustrated by the lack of independent bookstores in the city. I know Brookline Booksmith and the Harvard Bookstore, both great shops with terrific events, are a mere T ride away, but still...

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