4. Fragmented Media
For the informed of a decade ago, keeping tabs on Philadelphia’s media was eminently doable. There were the dailies, TV news, this magazine, the alt-weeklies and WHYY. And that was about all that really mattered.
Staying truly current with the output of today’s local media might be a physical impossibility. The last survey that tried even to count the outlets found 260 Philadelphia-focused blogs and online niche publications, including about 60 with “some journalistic DNA.” And that was back in 2010, or roughly an eternity ago in Internet time. It’s a state of affairs that makes journalism traditionalists weep, and the new guard exult. But will it actually change how Philadelphia works? Almost assuredly.
For starters, fragmented media leads to atomized audiences. Readers who care passionately about the schools can rely on the online Philadelphia Public School Notebook for comprehensive K-12 coverage. Political junkies get their fix from the Daily News’s PhillyClout blog. Urbanists turn to PlanPhilly or Next American City. The foodies are on Foobooz; the crime obsessives are constantly hitting reload on PhillyRapSheet.com.
If Philadelphians are indeed losing that sense of a shared identity—and I think they are—surely this is part of the reason why.
And yet even as the city’s indie media accelerates that splintering, many of these outlets (some of which I’ve written for) are doing much to create new communities. And unlike the fading mainstream outlets, the city’s new media ventures tend to see themselves not just as chroniclers of those communities, but as vital participants.
Technically Philly might be the clearest example of this model. Formed a little more than three years ago by a trio of Temple alums, the site closely covers the ups and downs of Philadelphia’s nascent tech scene. But Technically Philly also does its level best to nurture that community, unabashedly hosting events designed to bolster entrepreneurialism and cheerleading the city’s increasing willingness to give residents access to public data. “The news organizations that survive,” writes Technically Philly co-founder Christopher Wink, “will be stakeholders on the important issues.”