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Everyone Fails at Local News Online. Former TechCrunch Boss Eric Eldon Thinks He'll Get It Right.

He used to run a really big tech site. Now Eldon is running Hoodline, a site that covers (some of) San Francisco.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

There are lots of successful tech news sites. Eric Eldon used to run a really big one.

There are barely any successful local news sites. But that’s what Eldon is trying do now.

Eldon, who left his job co-editing TechCrunch in January, is resurfacing at a new gig. He’s the co-founder of Hoodline, a site that covers some of San Francisco’s local news.

Hoodline is an extension and overhaul of Haighteration, a neighborhood news site founded by Andrew Dudley. Eldon joined up with Dudley earlier this year and helped rebrand and overhaul the company; up until now they’ve bootstrapped it, but I get the sense Eldon is also raising money.

“I basically had gotten burnt out on covering technology,” he said. “But I’ve always been interested in San Francisco. It’s a city I really care about.”

In its current incarnation, Hoodline covers local news in a handful of San Francisco neighborhoods in the middle of the city, including the Lower Haight, the Upper Haight, Hayes Valley and the Castro. Most of the coverage is straightforward news you can use — here are some things you can buy or do, here’s where you can park your Zipcar, here’s what happened with that stabbing last night. They’re also doing some more ambitious enterprise reporting, too.

This is normally the part of the story where Eldon says that he’ll start small and then scale this into something that covers lots of places in San Francisco, and eventually around the country. Or that he has figured out an amazing software platform that will let other local news operations piggyback on his success.

But if Eldon has any plans like that, he’s keeping them to himself. For now, he seems pretty happy to cover news in his neighborhood, with a tried-and-true editorial model: A handful of editorial staffers, including himself, assign and edit dispatches written by contributors.

There’s some display advertising on the site now, though Eldon isn’t very enthusiastic about that model, which is good, since it doesn’t seem to work. “I’m not super-interested in pushing on selling more ads,” he said — though it sounds as though other revenue opportunities involve connecting his readers with other companies that might, eventually, want to sell them ads.

I hope Eldon succeeds, in part because he’s a nice guy, and in part because I’d like to see someone figure out local news online, because no one else really has. But it’s not like he’s unaware of the track record — he used to work for the people who ran Patch.

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