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Local news is still hard, so local news service Ripple is buying local news service Hoodline

Lots of people want local news. Paying for it is a different question.

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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.

When local news startup Ripple launched a few months ago, its plan was to cover what was happening in San Francisco and other cities, using material generated by other people.

Now the company is changing its plans a bit: It is going to have its own staff writing about news, at least in San Francisco.

Ripple is essentially hiring a small local newsroom by acquiring Hoodline, another local news startup that focused on a handful of San Francisco neighborhoods.

Hoodline was run by former TechCrunch editor Eric Eldon, who will join Ripple, and says most of his staff of about a dozen will come aboard as well. Hoodline co-founder Andrew Dudley will become a Ripple adviser; the company is also bringing on Google vet Chikai Ohazama as an adviser.

The two companies aren’t discussing financials, but my sense is this is closer to an “acqhire” than a big payday for Hoodline and its backers. That said, Ripple will continue to operate Hoodline’s local sites.

The deal does seem to indicate that local remains really, really hard for digital publishers. You can’t pay for many writers and editors with revenue generated by city- and neighborhood-sized audiences, and if you rely on free stuff ... you rely on free stuff.

Still, Eldon and Ripple CEO Razmig Hovaghimian think they can make a hybrid approach work: Use small, local editorial teams and augment their work with stuff from other publications, and stuff readers and other sources contribute for free.

They’re also excited about using tech to find and deliver local news based on your location, and they say they think they can make money be selling some of their stuff to businesses that could use local stories and data, like real estate services, travel sites, messaging bots and apps, and ride-hailing services like Uber.

Hovaghimian got himself into a mess when he first launched Ripple, when other local news sites yelled at him for scraping their stuff without permission. He says that misstep convinced him to pull back on his expansion plans until he got his tech sorted away. He’s now operating in 14 cities.

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