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Today’s New York Times ran a story about how both The NYT and The Wall Street Journal plan to launch full-fledged regional editions, beginning first in the Bay Area. According to the story, Bay Area residents could see regional editions as early as November.

For many years, we have anticipated this move and felt it was inevitable. Why? As the article points out, the current Bay Area papers — The Chronicle, The Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune — are perceived as under-serving the market. In addition, the Bay Area’s demographic profile (high income and education) is quite appealing.

If you dig a touch deeper, a couple of The NYT’s existing assets could make its initiative perhaps a bit easier. While the New York Times Regional Group is run separately from the flagship paper, it could theoretically provide synergies via several papers that it controls in the North Bay — the region north of the Golden Gate Bridge. These include The Press Democrat, the largest newspaper in Santa Rosa; and The Petaluma Argus Courier. In addition the company owns The North Bay Business Journal, which was purchased in 2005.

Recently, The New York Times Co. also launched the NY Times Wine Club (which  competes with the newly launched WSJ Wine Club). Funny, the North Bay includes some 700 wineries — and some of the most renowned wineries in the world.

I suspect that underneath the obvious, the real opportunity for both The NYT and The WSJ are the large online audiences. According to, there are nearly 6 million unique visitors between The Chronicle’s  and The Mercury News’ While it is certain that many of these unique visitors also go to the NYT and WSJ sites, this represents a significant opportunity for them to attract new readers and advertisers.

As a local, I am eager to see what transpires. Will either of these companies actually hire local reporters, correspondents and columnists? Will they focus on local politics, entertainment and sports? If they do, will they raid the ranks of the local papers to transfer audience loyalty?

One of the real frustrations with the “extended” coverage that both The NYT and The WSJ offer today is that most of what’s local is really just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a rare occasion today that either of the papers offer a truly local sports story or entertainment coverage.

Sure, the opening of the San Francisco Opera or the winning of the Cy Young by a Bay Area player might warrant a deeper dive. But what most of us want to know about the Bay Area goes well beyond the obvious. What we really want to know is who wore what to the opening of the opera and when, if ever, will Tim Lincecum get a haircut. If either of the new entrants begin to offer us that deep of coverage, they might, just might transform the Bay Area news scene forever.

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