The Miami Herald has partnered with locals to create and launch five hyper-local neighborhood news sites. These start-ups will use the Herald’s content management system to publish stories and photos and sell ads. The Herald retains some ad inventory for sale but the partners keep what they sell.

It looks like the lumbering beast at 1 Herald Plaza is waking up to the realities of publishing in the internet age. Key Biscayne as a distinct beat is genius. People pursue local news and like to exchange info about their town. This will work. Mike and Grant Miller are better connected than anyone in South Miami and Pinecrest, again, very good choice of partners. Likewise, Curtis has been publishing the River Cities Gazette and has built deep connections in the communities they serve. Curtis and Miller know how to sell ads.

Parceling out franchises to former Herald writer/editors is another great way for the Herald to gauge how this brave new world works. The Herald will learn how journalists can take make this work.

Finally, giving a franchise to a community foundation will provide more input. You can bet the CFCG will be less aggressive in selling and less likely to ruffle feathers with controversial news. But their top-level connections in the community could lead to some promising long-term sales deals.

The Miami Herald is taking the first steps in the right direction with this project. It looks like the Herald can see the possibilities of experimenting with this new set of partners.