NY tabloid’s new South Asian section shows ‘local’ is cultural not geographic

What do local New Yorkers really want to read about? Well, cricket and Bollywood, of course.
One of New York’s longtime tabloids The Daily News has added a news section to its website called Desi that targets the city’s large South Asian community.
The paper is using technology to siphon South Asian stories from papers around the world. A small staff helps ensure the content reflects the interest of the American diaspora.
According to SVP of Daily News Digital, Steve Lynas, the paper’s research shows that second and third generation immigrants want South Asian news — but they want it presented and curated with American sensibilities. This includes everything from story choice to changing spelling.
The result is stories like “Bollywood actress beheaded,” “Chicken gives birth to live chick at Sri Lankan farm” and “Nepal war children head from poverty to university.” There is also a mix of New York content and a small smattering of original articles.
The Daily News strategy also reflects a new conception of what it means to be “local.”
Local news has long a white whale for media types and resulted in some spectacular failures such as Patch, AOL’s ill-starred hyper-local venture.
The problem may have been that the whole concept of local has been misconceived in the first place.
“I don’t see a zip code as a good filter for community,” said Lynas, who notes that a city block of apartments is often full of people with nothing in common and who don’t want to talk to each other.
By tailoring “local” news to a given culture or ethnography, the Daily News can cover all of New York and beyond.
Lynas adds that the Daily News chose South Asian for their first community section in part because it’s a very educated demographic. Revenue is now based on display advertising but is likely to expand to other forms of marketing like daily deals.
If the new vertical is a success, Lynas says the Daily News will create new verticals to target other cultural groups who are heavily represented in New York.
The Desi content is driven by the technology of NewsCred, a service that provides licensed content from hundreds of sources.
[Correction: an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Mr. Lynas. We regret the error]