Debut of Tampa Bay's Metromix reveals one area of media still growing
These days, the news about the news is downright depressing: 130 newsroom jobs cut at the Palm Beach Post; copyediting jobs outsourced to India at the Orange County Register; buyouts and possible layoffs at both the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times.
But there's one area of established media where there's the tiniest bit of growth: online.
The latest example: a local branch of a nationwide network of entertainment-oriented web sites, dubbed Metromix, which debuted Monday from inside the newsroom at WTSP-Ch. 10. Developed as a partnership between WTSP owner Gannett Co. and the Tribune Co. (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times), Metromix is scheduled to establish about 40 separate web sites across the country focused on their local entertainment scenes -- in the process, creating a unique national platform for online advertisements.
"I've seen the kind of impact it can have in a town as big as Chicago -- it's prevalent in the culture of the young professionals there," said Nathalie Voirin, a former WTSP producer who serves as managing editor for Metromix Tampa Bay, directing the work of four full-time staffers and a network of freelancers from the heart of the CBS affiliate's newsroom in St. Petersburg. "Before you go out there -- you check Metromix to see where the restaurants or clubs are."
Hired in mid-March for the project, Voirin has jumped into a competition with the Times' own online version of its youth-oriented tabloid, TBT*, along with the local alternative weekly, Creative Loafing. Indeed, when Creative Loafing announced the purchase of The Chicago Reader and the Washington City Paper, one of the goals set by publisher Ben Eason was creating the kind of national online ad sales platform Metromix is building.
But while TBT and Loafing present a range of material on their web sites -- news reports, investigative stories, political analysis -- Metromix is focused on entertainment and leisure, with listings, reviews and other material focused pretty tightly on what 21 to 34-year-olds want to do with their time when not at work or school.
It's also part of WTSP's effort to ramp up its web site and leave behind the notion that local TV station Web sites often lag behind the local newspaper's offerings. The station has streamlined its web design and created an area for mothers dubbed Mom's Tampa Bay.
All this seems to be another example of how resources, effort, and competition are moving from traditional media to the online world.