Posts Tagged ‘hyperlocal’

The folks at insidenova.com, the website of the News & Messenger in Manassas and Prince William County, Va., stumbled into an excellent example of how to respond to what you see happening locally in social media. After severe flooding in the region last week, people found themselves without a clearinghouse for information and discussion — but they gravitated to the insidenova Facebook page and were filling it with just such information. So, seeing that, interim managing editor Kari Pugh created a flood information clearinghouse page on Facebook. In just a few hours it had garnered about 250 “likes,” and the community discussion on it was mostly self-sustaining. The community is doing the organizing and exchange of information, but the news organization has facilitated that and put itself at the hub of the conversation.

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Poseidon Adventure
Just a brief note: The last of the management involved in the TBD.com experiment has left the site.

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You will know that Skynet has arrived and the ultimate war against the humans is imminent when someone invents a hyperlocalization news tool like that described by Jeff Sonderman in his commentary for Poynter.org about Google News’ new “news near you” service. In summary: Google takes aim at the mobile market by using your mobile device’s geolocation info to feed you more or less hyperlocal news results; Jeff says it’s great as far as it goes, but he wants more — more headlines, more curation, more socialization. His area, metro Washington, D.C., used to have something close to what he wants — it was called TBD.com, and it was killed in its crib a few months ago. Actually, Jeff is looking for the robot version, a “killer app,” and a certain level of personalization — a step beyond hyperlocalization:

“To create a market-dominating filter of local news, someone will need to curate the pool of aggregated news to match each reader’s interests, browsing history and social network activity, in addition to his or her location.

“The killer app would be one that filters a breadth of local aggregation like Outside.in through a hyperpersonalized social filter sought by mobile services such as News.me and Trove combined with the personal browsing and search history of Google.”

And he’s right. If someone can invent a computer program that can do all that, it will be a killer, all right — it might kill the need to have humans involved in the news-delivery process (that would be the group usually called editors or producers) at all.

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(Originally posted on Feb. 25, 2011)
Allbritton Communications unceremoniously demoted TBD.com to the status of glorified E! channel this week. If you remember all the way back to last year, when some people (like me) had high hopes for TBD as a model for local news online, read CJR’s interview with Jim Brady, who stepped down from leading TBD late last year when it must have become obvious that Allbritton intended to decapitate TBD. One thing that is true is that TBD’s model — aggregating news throughout the community, whether from partners or from competitors — was a success, as far as measured by traffic: In January, just five months after its debut, it attracted 1.5 million unique visitors, nearly double its December total of 838,000 and far surpassing November’s total, 715,000, the internal figures show; over the past three months, TBD’s traffic was substantially higher than Web sites operated by local TV stations WRC (Channel 4), WUSA (Channel 9) and WTTG (Channel 5), according to Compete.com.

“I’d even go so far to say that that model is, for a local news site, sort of indisputable. The debate over whether you work with people in your community, or whether you just say, ‘Here’s our website, and here’s all the stuff we produced today and that’s it,’ I think that has to be over. Newspapers had that power because they had the power of distribution. But on the web, people are going to go to all different sites, and so if you can be that place that connects people to good content that they’re interested in regardless of source, then you’re going to be the place they start their day. And on the web, that’s how you win: you have to be in somebody’s short list of sites they always go to. People would say, ‘Why are you linking off-site? You’re driving people away from your site!’ But what’s the counter-argument to that, that if you never link off-site, then people will never leave your website?

“I mean, they’re going to leave your website anyway, whether it’s to go check their e-mail or go to TMZ.com or whatever. So the concept that you’re losing people by doing that, is actually the opposite of what’s actually happening — which is that you’re building loyalty by performing the role you’re supposed to perform, which is to be a conduit for useful information.”

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(Originally posted on Nov. 15, 2010)
SaveTheNews.org has an interesting look behind an experimental hyperlocal news-aggregation site in Boulder, Colo., Slices of Boulder. Steve Outing, who oversees the site, describes it as, “It’s curation, and aggregation, and intelligent semantic filtering and processing, and text mining, and personalization offered down to a micro level.” Aggregation seems a natural addition to mainstream news sites, but so far not many seem to be doing it. As Outing says:

“If local news organizations are to survive and be relevant, they must learn to curate and aggregate links to the best local content being produced online for their communities. If they don’t take this on, someone else will.”

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(Originally posted on Aug. 9, 2010)

The biggest news of the week in media may be today’s launch of TBD.com, Allbritton Communications’ new hyperlocal site in Washington, D.C. Many people who devote either their jobs, a large chunk of their free time or both to pondering the future of news media have been eagerly awaiting it. Now that’s it’s here, the early reviews, like this one, or this from Mashable, have been good but not overwhelming — more like “It’s a good start; let’s see what happens.” The editor of the site admits it’s a work in progress — which is why it’s named TBD, “to be determined.”

The editor’s letter to readers includes some details about staffing that had not been widely circulated before, as far as I know:

“TBD has about a dozen reporters. One of them writes nothing but lists. One is all over pedestrian life. One holds politicians throughout the region accountable. Three carry a year-round obsession with the Redskins. Three are covering some of the fastest-developing communities in the region. Three are the final authority on all things arts and entertainment.”

That obviously does not sound like a lot of reporting power for a city as large as Washington. But the site’s focus is on using aggregation and a massive network of independent bloggers to create a come-here-first-for-your-news destination:

“TBD has an aggressive news-filtering machine powered by an entire staff of journalists who scan the region’s blogs, newspapers, and magazines every day. They categorize all the stories from sources in our coverage area so that you can find them with virtually no effort. Just tap your ZIP code or neighborhood into the “My Community” box, and you’ll get the entire “news feed” for your area. Never again will you end up out of the conversation. Moments ago, I entered my ZIP. I found 55 stories written over the past 72 hours from 30 sources.”

The great hope being invested in this site is because to date no one has found the model to make hyperlocal sites profitable on a large scale (emphasis on large). And even if TBD works, it is paired with two Washington-area TV stations, one of them a 24-hour news channel, which may mean some things would not translate to other markets. But it’s the new-media show to watch, and it may answer questions about the viability of online news. If nothing else, it could alter some features of news sites’ designs.

UPDATE: Lessons every news site can learn from TBD’s launch.

8/10 UPDATE: A view from the broadcast perspective:

“On many levels, TBD is worth talking about. It’s the first aggressive effort in local TV circles to compete in a new world of online/mobile news. Allbritton added about 50 people for the site, roughly as many staffers already working on the TV side. And it combined its online brands: WJLA.com and Newschannel 8’s website now redirect to TBD.com. Allbritton is so serious about TBD, it’s rebranding its cable news channel, Newschannel 8 with TBDTV.

“It also is taking a fresh approach to local news: a ‘platform-neutral’ approach to sales, agnostic aggregation (link the competition!) and a citizen blog network with a revenue sharing arrangement, to name a few. …

“(T)his is the first time that a local media group — especially in the TV space — has wrapped these ideas together and aggressively launched them with an investment to back it up.”

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(Originally posted on July 19, 2010)

The winners of the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism were announced today. Take a look and see if any give you ideas. The top winner is especially interesting because it’s a model for livestreaming an event while simultaneously providing context and links to further reporting:

“As people watched the live streaming video, the team added additional reporting and document links on the opposite side of the screen, hosted a live blog, and displayed an evolving log of Tweets about the event – all in one place.”

UPDATE: More about the winners.

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