WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. — The staff at HereCast, formerly known as DailyUV, attributed an overestimation of readership projections to their recently announced decision to shut down the independent regional news site.
On Monday, HereCast staff posted a letter on its website stating that despite the continual growth of online readership, the company overestimated how quickly they could expand HereCast’s readership beyond the Upper Valley region.
“We’re growing, but not quickly enough to support the cost of continuing to develop and maintain our platform,” the letter read. “We’ve been farming just to pay off the tractor, as they say, so we need to rethink our strategy before seeking new investors.”
Watt Alexander, of Norwich, launched HereCast — then called DailyUV — nearly six years ago, with a vision to employ digital media to bring local news and features to area communities.
“We believe creating a single place for locals to find what’s going on ‘here,’ where we all live, work, and play,” Alexander said in a post on Friday.
HereCast’s model was a stark contrast to traditional newspapers in numerous ways. The company’s content came from contracted local bloggers — or “casters,” according to Alexander — from around the region. The blog stories were funded by advertisers. HereCast paid bloggers based on how many readers clicked on their stories.
“[Our stories were] by locals for locals,” yesterday’s letter said. “No paywalls or subscriptions, just free and open access to what matters to you about where you live.”
While some bloggers were professional freelance writers or journalists, HereCast encouraged residents from all backgrounds to be casters. HereCast story content ranged from local news reports to features and perspectives about a full array of interests in the region.
“We showed that, given the opportunity, people from all walks of life will step up to inform and engage their communities,” the team stated.
Unfortunately, despite the growing readership and number of local bloggers contributing to regular content, the model was not profitable. The business attempted to supplement its revenue through story marketing, in which businesses or organizations would pay HereCast and a contracted writer to publish marketing stories on HereCast’s platform.
In July, the news site changed its name from DailyUV to HereCast, hoping that expanding its focus beyond the Upper Valley would increase enough readers and new advertisers to make the model sustainable. But the expansion growth fell short of HereCast’s goals.
HereCast’s letter also cast blame on the “hostility of traditional media.” The company had hoped that local newspapers and other outlets would partner with HereCast to publish some of its content online through HereCast’s platform. But according to HereCast’s letter, the traditional outlets saw HereCast as an unwelcome rival, rather than a means to adapt.
“We were naive to imagine they could embrace the risk exploring a different future with us under those circumstances,” the team said. “But the problems with traditional local media go much deeper than losing money and probably have to get much worse before they get better.”
Though the HereCast team is calling the shutdown a “hiatus,” an email sent to bloggers on Friday expressed sadness about the decision, not indicating how long the shutdown might last.
“This is hard for all of us,” the email stated. “We have put our heart and soul into creating a place where locals can write about their towns, passions, and help their communities reconnect and thrive. It’s going to be sad to not have this place anymore, but we hope all of you continue to write and share your work elsewhere.”
The email told bloggers that HereCast will continue to update the community about the situation in the upcoming weeks and inform bloggers how they can recover the content they published on the site.