Eric Eldon, who stepped in a few years ago to lead and stabilize TechCrunch after the departure of its founder Michael Arrington and many key staffers, has quietly been been dipping his toes back into journalism.
This time it’s not about tech startups.
He’s going into local journalism with Hoodline, a startup that grew out of a hyper-local blog about the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood called Haighteration. As a former resident there, Eldon followed Haighteration closely and ended up connecting with its creator Andrew Dudley, a Harvard-educated developer who also had media experience after stints at entertainment blogs like Flavorpill.
Dudley had the right mix of technical skills and civic interest that Eldon often has looked for in a technical partner. They then started working on ways to build out Haighteration into a broader network and platform for local content called Hoodline. They’re now covering a number of neighborhoods including the Castro with a network of local bloggers and writers.
There have been more attempts at building a hyper-local media network than I can really count. There are big corporate efforts like AOL’s Patch, early efforts like Outside.in (which AOL later acquired) and then some big venture-backed startups like NextDoor, which is less reliant on journalists and uses discussion boards.
It’s a tough problem and a market that’s proven hard to sustain with the kinds of local advertising and classifieds that once used to financially support city newspapers.
Eldon says he’s not looking to compete with big metropolitan newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle. Hoodline is specifically focused on neighborhoods and their main retail corridors. He says that neighborhood news is a core building block of democracy that’s suffered, and that there’s demand from people to know about what’s happening a few blocks away, whether that involves hard-hitting news or profiles of local personalities.
The company isn’t talking about funding, except to say that it’s raised enough to launch some interesting products in the coming weeks. The current business model involves some advertising, but Eldon has always disdained purely ad-based models for supporting editorial products.
Disclosure: Eric and I have worked on-and-off together for five years. Actually, our grandfathers even worked together at Silicon Valley’s first very big tech company, Hewlett-Packard, more than 50 years ago. But we had no idea about this until after we started working together.
So we’ve been involved in Silicon Valley for a very long time and have mutual interests in the long-term financial sustainability of journalism and about the tech industry’s civic responsibilities. He’s helped me on a lot of pieces including that 13,000-word story about housing. So yes, this is totally biased.