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Archive for April 27th, 2009

This is the 10th part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

The Complete Community Connection should not limit its personal content to the stages of life. We should develop personal content in areas that cross many different ages and stages.

In the community content section, I discussed the possibilities of developing sites used daily (or at least frequently) by drivers and home-owners, as vehicles to strengthen the traditional verticals of homes and cars. The jobs vertical may be harder to develop such a site, but we could present advice and discussion threads on work issues and career planning, a database of average salaries and wages for various jobs in our community, a cost-of-living comparison calculator for relocating workers, etc.

We could start other verticals along the same model, such as health, pets, hobbies and food. These topics can have some general community-type content, such as the current food sections of The Gazette and GazetteOnline. But they need to be personal as well, with people exchanging family recipes (and the personal stories behing them), pet photos and so on.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Illness.

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 This is the ninth part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Divorce is a life stage that obviously isn’t an opportunity for a celebration site, similar to weddings or graduations.

But it’s a big change when people have lots of jobs to be done and lots of new situations for which local businesses will want to connect with them. We should offer a site providing links (with opportunities for the business or organization to buy enhanced links) to counselors, lawyers, support groups, singles groups, churches, credit counselors.

We also can offer discussion opportunities for people experiencing divorce. We can offer multiple layers, with general content and services for anyone going through divorce and specialized content by gender and circumstances (custodial, non-custodial and joint-custody parents, hostile or amicable divorces, first-timers and multiple divorces).

In addition to the targeted advertising opportunities, this aspect of community connection may provide some lead-generation opportunities for the businesses listed above as well as real estate agents, landlords, car dealers and possibly other businesses who serve people who are starting anew. We might have some email opportunities — a template the divorcing person can use to send the news, along with new contact information, details and whatever, to family, friends and creditors.

Of course, the circumstances of divorce present some situations that might lead to malicious comments online, so in this format, we might reverse our trend to encourage or require identification and encourage or require use of fictitious screen names in discussion forums.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Jobs, health, pets, food interests.

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This is the eighth part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

One of the best successes of newspaper companies in developing niche products has been web sites (and sometimes related publications) targeting mothers.

Gannett led the way with local “Moms” sites that evolved into the national site, MomsLikeMe. Other companies, including Cox and McClatchy, launched their own local sites. The Newspaper Next 2.0 report profiled the Cox projects focusing on moms in Ohio and Rich Gordon of Northwestern University wrote a case study of the IndyMoms project that launched Gannett’s effort. Because this topic has been examined thoroughly, I won’t elaborate on it much here, though I affirm that media companies need to target moms in their efforts to become the Complete Community Connection. 

Two points I would emphasize:

  • We need to sell products directly to moms for business customers. We need to register kids directly for activities.
  • We should consider whether we could draw the same sort of audiences with dads, again with content and revenue working together.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Divorce.

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This is the seventh part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Weddings are an excellent example of how newspapers’ sense of news is way out of whack with the people in the community and how we miss out on big news and revenue opportunities because of the blinders of our current business model.

The blinders hurt us on both the content and revenue sides. Weddings, engagements and anniversaries aren’t big news for newspapers because they happen so many times each year in the life of the community. If we make a big deal of one, we’ll have to make a big deal out of them all, so we bury them inside the paper and handle them by format. Well, they all are big deals and each is unique and memorable. Each wedding is one of the biggest news stories of the year in the circle of people attending. And we can make each of them a big deal in our network.

Each wedding in the community deserves its own multi-level web site. We need to start seizing this content (and its revenue opportunities).

St. Louis Best Bridal provides a good starting model but we need to go further. Iowa Bridal Planner barely begins to touch the possibilities for networking and commerce related to weddings. In addition to events and printed bridal planning guides, we need to become a place where people share their experiences: a mix of features and advice about weddings and user-generated content such as romantic moments, wedding disasters, funny moments, cute-kid stories from weddings, worst-bridesmaid-dress contests and how-to discussions.

We should offer a directory of businesses that help with the jobs to be done around weddings. This would be a multi-level directory, connecting with the iGuide. Just to have useful content, we should list basic information (address, phone, hours, web site, map) for every florist, dress shop, etc. in the community. We should offer the businesses an opportunity to pay for enhanced listings on multiple levels, including preferred placement and lead generation.

We need to offer web sites for each couple, linked to from the main wedding page and easily searchable. The couple’s site includes not just the engagement announcement, but lots of opportunities for user-generated content: how the couple met, their song, a quiz about the couple, information about the event.

We need to offer direct help with some of the logistical details about the wedding. For instance, the couple should be able to reserve a block of rooms at a local hotel directly from our web site (with opportunities for guests to reserve and confirm rooms directly). We need a more interactive and helpful online wedding planner, where brides can check out venues using virtual reality photography, choose their tuxes, preview dresses (of course, they’ll need to go out and try them on, but they can do some online shopping to narrow the list of shops they want to try in person).

When couples start their wedding page, they would agree in the registration process that we can provide information about them to vendors (we might give them multiple levels, so they can choose which types of vendors they want to hear from). This is a powerful lead-generation opportunity for an event on which couples spend tons of money. We can provide a gift registry from which family and friends (many of them people from outside the community who wouldn’t spend money here unless we give them the opportunity) can buy gifts online for direct delivery to the couple.

We also might collect contact information from the buyers and email them before the first anniversary, offering a new chance to buy gifts. We could offer the couple a newspaper and/or a DVD about the couple’s childhood, adolescence and courtship, using photos and stories posted at their web site.

As with many areas of personal content, we need to extend these services through multiple products: Iowa Bridal Planner, of course, but also The Gazette’s Milestones section as well as events and special sections or magazines. We also need to look for opportunities to provide solutions for services such as reservations and gift registries directly ourselves and where we need to partner with businesses already providing those solutions. For instance, we could get paid on a click-through basis when family or friends click into a department store’s gift registry from our site. But we could develop our own registry tool for smaller community-based shops and there we collect the money for the sale and collect a larger fee from the vendor.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Parenthood.

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This is the sixth part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

When National Guard and Reserve units from our communities are deployed, the Complete Community Connection should provide personal pages telling the stories of the units and the troops.

In addition, we can provide the hometown link for Iowa troops who are scattered to various bases here and abroad. We start the page with the basic information: name, rank, unit, hometown. And we invite the sevicemember and his or her family and friends to fill in the rest: photos, videos, stories, personal interests, etc.

As with other areas of personal content, we have commercial opportunities, especially when people are deployed. Family, friends, supportive individuals and congregations and civic groups in the community can contribute to buy care packages from local businesses, which will ship them overseas. We should report when people are returning on leave or when deployments are ending and family, friends and community members can buy all or parts of rest-and-recreation gift packages — weekend at a local hotel or resort, spa or golf package, dinner gift certificate, etc.

We need to develop a lead-generation model for veterans’ organizations, alerting them to military people whose hitches are ending, so they can advertise on the page or contact the person directly.

When local service members become casualties — injured, missing or killed — coverage from the news site would be posted on their pages (unless the family chooses to exclude news coverage). The page becomes a place for distant relatives, friends and supporters to keep updated on a soldier’s recovery or express their grief at a family’s loss.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Weddings.

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This is the fifth part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

College life may be one of the biggest challenges for a media company to develop personal content as part of a Complete Community Connection approach.

Lots of other sites are already providing college students opportunities for their own pages, whether on MySpace, Facebook or personal blogs. But we shouldn’t concede this group. Swocol provides a model for starting to connect college students in the communities or regions where they are attending school.

As mentioned in the graduation section, we can develop advertising and lead-generation possibilities with college bookstores and other merchants around campuses. These opportunities continue throughout college. Students can have standing and special-occasion gift registries, where parents can buy gift certificates, care packages and finals-week treats.

As mentioned in the section on assumptions, don’t assume that this is something we would do in competition with college media organizations. This might provide a perfect opportunity for partnerships, internships and a new model for cooperation. We should also explore the possibilites of working with, rather than competing with, Facebook. Whether we use Facebook groups, use Facebook Connect on our own sites or help local businesses connect with students on Facebook, the right approach might be using the platform where college students already spend much of their time.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Military service.

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This is the fourth part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get this effort launched for 2009, but we need to make sure that we start early enough to make it happen for the Class of 2010.

Newspapers spend a fair amount of time and ink (and pixels) in our core products on graduation coverage, sending photographers and reporters to ceremonies and printing up special sections with names and photos of grads. As newsprint prices have risen, we can’t afford to devote as much space to all the photos and lists of names as we used to. But we can devise a better way to recognize the achievements of graduates, who spend much of their lives in the digital world anyway.

Newspaper staffs can channel that work of gathering photos and names into more valuable uses and put the users to work making graduation coverage deeper and richer. We should get the lists and photos of area seniors at the start of the spring semester, and turn them into a database of the Class of 2010. Each student gets his or her own page, where we invite them to add college or career plans, school activities, parents’ names, favorite teachers, high school highlights and their own photos, videos and stories of their high school days. We make each site interactive, with a place for friends and families to add their reminiscences and best wishes.

This can be a tremendous audience-builder as proud parents send links out across the country, bringing grandparents, relatives and friends to our graduation pages.

Are there possibilities for mischief here? Of course. High school seniors and their friends are a mischievous lot. Some friends (or adversaries) will want to add their true, wished-for, exaggerated or maliciously false stories of drunkenness, drug use and sexual exploits to the sentimental memories on the site. We can control this (here and in other interactive parts of the network) in at least a couple ways:

  • Require verified registration before allowing comments or posting of photos or videos. Mischief is much more likely to happen anonymously. With verified registration, we not only deter the mischief, we can block the undeterred mischief makers from posting again. (And in the registration process, we collect information about our users that will be valuable in targeting ads or in generating leads for advertisers.
  • Enable users to call our attention to objectionable content, so mischief will be removed promptly. 

Beyond the immediate audience-building value of making coverage of the Class of 2010 memorable and interactive, this approach will give us a chance to identify our network as the place for these graduates (many of whom are scattering but will always have an emotional connection to the community) to reconnect with their hometown.

Each senior’s web site will include a gift registry, from which area merchants can sell gifts directly to distant grandparents, aunts and uncles. We’ll need to contact university book stores and other merchants in Iowa City, Ames, Cedar Falls and perhaps other college towns and sell them targeted advertising on the pages of seniors heading to their schools. When a student fills in the “college plans” field on his page, ads from businesses around the school appear on the senior’s page. We mght be able to sell the college-town merchants leads, emailing them a link each time a senior lists their college as his or her destination or asking families if we can forward contact information to campus-area businesses and services.

If the senior isn’t going to college, but fills in the “career plans” field, we’ll ask whether the student wants to receive email alerts, RSS feeds or text alerts when recruitment ads in the field are posted.

We need to let relatives visiting for commencement book lodging and rental cars from local hotels and agencies. We offer parents, graduates and others a chance to order a DVD or print version of the graduation photo gallery. Or maybe we can offer a personalized four-page newspaper about their graduate, using material they submit under our masthead.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: College life.

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This is the third part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Our network can be the place where schools connect with the community.

We can give each student a password-protected web page, where teachers’ homework assignments are posted automatically, so parents can check what the assignments are and remind their children to get it done (and Mom and Dad can watch the kid upload the finished assignment, so it doesn’t ride around for a week in a backpack). We can develop resources to help students with their classes, links to the community information we develop as well as to other valuable resources provided elsewhere.

We should get the back-to-school supply lists for each class and post them automatically to the appropriate web pages, along with ads (or online order forms) from merchants. Parents can sign up to receive the supply lists by email (with links to the online order forms) as soon as they are available. Instead of crowding the aisles with other parents looking for notebooks, markers and lunch boxes, parents could order it all online from their own web page for delivery to their homes. Teachers’ and classmates’ birthdays would be posted to the web page, too, along with gift registries and/or ads.

When students register (through their web page in our network) for sports, band and other activities, their web pages will be updated automatically with equipment, instruments and music books they will need, along with ads (and direct-purchase opportunities) from sporting-goods stores and music stores. And, of course, parents get offers to buy tickets, join the booster club and schedule their hours in the concession stand.

Each team (school teams and youth sports teams) or activity (band, speech, drama, science club, whatever) would get its own site, too (with links on the youths’ home pages). There we will have practice and game schedules, rosters, individual photos, stats, team blogs, trash-talk forums, videos and photos shot by parents, etc. We’ll have some merchandising opportunities, such as customized team newspapers, player cards or an end-of-the-season DVD with parent-shot video clips from each game (supplemented by our own video, when our staff has shot their games). For state tournaments and other distant road games, we’ll provide opportunities for booking hotels, making dinner reservations and other travel arrangements.

Whether we’re talking about teacher conferences, homework, activities, schedule changes, weather closings or report cards, we can give parents options about how they want to receive information – text message, automated phone call, automatic posting to the web page, RSS feed, direct mail, email, Twitter, Facebook update.

Schools facing a budget pinch (that would be all of them), might welcome the opportunity to outsource and improve their communication functions. We need to explore whether we could collect a fee for taking on this work or whether we take the work on free and make our money by connecting the parents and students with businesses in the community at just the right times.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Graduation.

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This is the second part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

For children already in our site, the milestones of childhood and youth will present gift-giving opportunities and content-generation opportunities. For children who aren’t yet in our network, these are opportunities to engage them.

We should promote our child web pages through churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, schools, day care centers, preschools, business customers and our own products. So we expand existing pages and generate new pages for children to celebrate the first day of school, first Communion, baptism, confirmation, bar or bat mitzvah, quinceañera, Eagle Scout court of honor, 16th birthday.

Many of these milestones present revenue opportunities for C3 and opportunities to connect consumers and businesses. For gift-giving occasions, we need to offer gift registries. For party occasions, we can generate leads or sell actual products or make reservations for invitation printers, party venues, florists, dress shops or whatever is appropriate. For 16th birthday, we offer auto insurance.

We let families decide whether we can sell (or they can sell) co-op advertising space on their pages. We can let them restrict their pages to a certain type of advertisers or bar certain types. We can sell the advertising inventory of agreeable families and a cut goes into a college fund for the child. (This might be an issue we have to address in several aspects of personal content. If people are going to engage and provide personal content, we might want to give them a financial stake in their page, giving them a portion of revenue generated from the page. As we do this, though, we need to watch out for pitfalls, such as creating incentives for people to produce false or skewed information.)

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: School.

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This is the first part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Births are huge personal news and they are spending occasions. More important, this is an opportunity for the Complete Community Connection to connect with a family.

We should provide the baby’s first web page, created automatically upon the blessed event. We should give hospitals gift packets of samples and coupons we have collected from businesses in the community for diapers, child care, formula, etc. The packet includes an invitation to the parents to use the baby’s new web site. (If they don’t within a week or two, we send email and/or snail mail invitations.) We prepopulate the baby’s web site with the basic public-record data: Name, date and time born, parents’ names. We invite the parents to add to it: photos, videos, gift registry, family comments, milestones such as teeth, crawling and first haircut, links to siblings’, cousins’ and friends’ pages. This becomes the digital baby book, sharing the infant’s story with family and friends around the world and connecting those friends and family to our content network, their convenient way to buy gifts for this child again and again.

Adding to the baby’s page involves registration, which gives us leads to sell to businesses in the community that cater to parents of children (and the cast of businesses changes as the child grows up). With registration, we have email addresses to use to remind parents to update periodically with baby photos. A month or so before each birthday, we send out email reminders to update the gift registry. We don’t generate content for this site beyond launching it and sending occasional automatic reminders. But the family makes it part of our content collection that tells more and more about the community. The aggregate birth effort generates leads for business customers and allows us to sell gifts from our business customers directly to family and friends not just in our community but around the world.

We also might be able to sell our own products directly to the family. For instance, we could sell the parents a custom-printed keepsake newspaper of the day the baby was born, with the birth as the lead story, using copy and photos from the family and filling out with the real news of the day. On the baby’s first birthday, we offer a newspaper using the content posted during the year (presuming the family has posted enough content). Or maybe we sell a DVD of the photos and videos posted to the site, with a sound track of songs the family chooses or of the family’s recording of the baby’s babbling, first words, etc.

Our goal is to make this the child’s web page for life, a site that grows with the child, providing fresh user-generated content and sales opportunities. We allow distant grandparents, aunts and uncles to receive email or text notification (a promising advertising vehicle) about milestones such as first tooth, first word, etc. when the parents fill them in.

With each of these personal-content areas, we need to watch for possibilities with our packaged products. Would an annual or quarterly “community baby book” section for The Gazette have possibilities? Or an occasional feature on best baby video clips on KCRG? Or would we give parents an opportunity to check off on posting baby pictures to a gallery of Iowa baby photos on Iowa.com? I won’t go through the product possibilities in each of the personal content areas, but I encourage product managers and planners to explore them.

With this as well as with other milestones, especially for children, we need to consider giving parents a way to limit access to content. Perhaps as with Facebook, we would offer a limited public profile, with more information available only to chosen family and friends who have the password. Or maybe parents would have the option to make personal content all password-protected. We also need to give parents the ability to opt out and remove a baby’s page if they don’t want to participate. But the offers from businesses should give most parents plenty of incentive to participate.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Growing-up Milestones.

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This is the sixth section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

A longtime contradiction of life in the news business has been that we ignore or downplay the biggest news in the lives of the people we serve. If someone in your family graduates, gets married, has a baby, dies or has a major illness or surgery, that’s the biggest news of the year in your family and often in a broader circle of friends and co-workers.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, the biggest news in my family now is my nephew Patrick’s battle with leukemia (it looks like he’ll be ready to be released soon from a Boston hospital after six weeks hospitalized for a bone transplant). In other recent years, major news for our family was a son’s wedding or graduation, a niece’s baby or my surgery. 

Some of these events that are huge news in small circles don’t even appear in the newspaper and won’t make the evening news on TV. Some will be a line of agate in the paper or a formulaic announcement or obituary. Digital versions are usually little more than the same text (and photo, if a photo was even used) that we provided in the paper. The possibilities for community connection, personal storytelling and revenue generation around personal content are great and community news organizations need to recognize and develop these possibilities.

We are early in the history of social networking and we need to develop at the local level the kind of platforms that Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other social networks are developing on a global level. Sometimes we will interface with existing global networking platforms, as on our Facebook page and adding Twitter feeds, but more and more we will develop community networks, doing the local connection jobs that we’ve always done with other tools and doing new connection jobs that were not possible before. Others are already entering this space and we need to pursue it swiftly. We can’t know now all the ways we can or need to serve the community through personal content. If we wait to see all the possibilities unfold, we will be too late. 

Life’s milestones, big events and different stages are a way to connect with people in the community and beyond, adding content that is newsy today but gains lasting value. In general, the approach for each milestone will be multi-tiered for both content and revenue. We need to offer a basic web page to celebrate the event (preferably another branch of the site we already have with this person, but if not, this should be the first of many). In each case, we would offer the basic site, with options for automated messages to family and friends, user-generated content, gift registries, direct venue and/or hotel reservations. We also could offer some upsells on the site that would make the design much cooler and personalized for a fee.

We need to develop the tools and opportunities to generate revenue from personal content on four levels:

  • Direct sales opportunities of gifts, flowers, reservations, etc.
  • Targeted advertising based on the event or life stage itself.
  • Targeted advertising based on what we know about the person from previous activities, preferences and information registered.
  • Customized products such as a four-page newspaper with a person’s graduation or retirement as the lead news story, with supporting stories and pictures provided by the family and friends.

Cradle-to-grave observance of big occasions can be a huge opportunity for building audience and generating revenue that we barely tap now. Other solutions are already operating in some of these spaces, but they often are not community-based solutions and we can offer solutions with local connections and other benefits that will help us be disruptive. In other cases, these are “blue-ocean” opportunities where we can build audience with little or no competition.

News has always been our core job. We need to take advantage of new technology and new social tools to help people make a big deal of each event. We can become the place where people find out what’s happening with people they care about in the community, where they celebrate, worry and mourn. And many of these events are occasions of big spending that we can accommodate. 

Continue reading plans for types of personal content:

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content opportunities: Births.

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This is the fifth and final part of the community content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

An important aspect of the Complete Community Connection will be to develop the place where people of our communities and perhaps across Iowa turn for answers to their questions about this state and its communities: databases, community resources, services, history, unique aspects of local life (attractions, institutions and events) and a user-generated encyclopedia of local knowledge.

Databases

I have detailed the possibilities for databases in a separate report for Newspaper Next: Be the Answer: Using interactive databases to provide answers and generate revenue. We will develop databases to provide content throughout our digital products as well as to provide information we would use in print and broadcast. Interactive databases would be the cornerstone of the a massive answer center we would develop where people in the community could seek answers to nearly any question at the state or community level.

Zack Kucharski is off to a strong start developing such an answer center in the Data Central portion of GazetteOnline, providing answers about such matters as flood buyouts, Hawkeye  football history and salaries of government workers. We need to continue development of this resource, both through answerbases we develop ourselves and through links to answerbases provided elsewhere. For an in-depth look at the possibilities for anwerbases, read the full N2 report. (API charges $19.95 for the report; Gazette Communications staff who haven’t read it can see me for a copy.)

Some topics on which we need to develop answerbases (priorities and needs will vary for each media organization; you need to provide information that’s important to your community):

I have detailed the possibilities for databases in a separate report for Newspaper Next: Be the Answer: Using interactive databases to provide answers and generate revenue. We will develop databases to provide content throughout our digital products as well as to provide information we would use in print and broadcast. Interactive databases would be the cornerstone of the a massive answer center we would develop where people in the community could seek answers to nearly any question at the state or community level.

Neighborhood resources

This content differs from at least two other types of content that might also operate at the neighborhood level: hyperlocal talk sites and news sites. These would be places you can go to learn useful timely and evergreen information about your neighborhood. The content could follow a combination of existing models such as EveryblockWashingtonpost.com Local Explorer  and CinciNavigator (described already in the section on homes) and Jacqueline DuPree’s JDLand’s Southeast Washington, D.C., development site.

Local Explorer, CinciNavigator and Everyblock are great examples of how we should be able to assemble and present databases to provide lots of answers on the neighborhood level – crime, schools, home sales, services, restaurants, local calendar, local news, basic local info, local photographs, permits, etc.

JDLand is a great example of using citizen journalists to present the information that many of them already are gathering out of self-interest. This site is more sophisticated than most will be, because of DuPree’s skill as a professional journalist in her day job for the Washington Post and because she happens to live in a neighborhood that’s undergoing such dramatic change. But lots of neighborhoods have activists, busybodies and gadflies with similar passions whom we can recruit and provide a forum to build rich, lively, detailed neighborhood sites.

Especially in neighborhoods rebuilding after the flood, connections to neighborhoods are strong in the communities we cover and we can provide forums and tools for people to compile and share information. Depending on the neighborhood or the source, we may bring some of these folks onto our sites as participants or we may link to their independent sites. Either way, we become the place to find all the neighborhood resources.

We will need to brand our own content separately from the user-generated content, and to provide ways for the community to rate the credibility of the content.

Services

Between the iGuide and annual publications such as Explore and Discover, we already compile a great amount of information to help people with the needs and chores of daily life. We want to compile and provide information and services that will be valuable to newcomers to our region as well as to longtime residents. We need to tell how to get your driver’s license, start utilities, start the newspaper, find schools and places of worship and so on. Where you can do this online, we must help you do that right from our site or connect you to the agency’s site. We have to become the place to connect with services in the community. Of course, a print version of this will have value as well, but the digital version will always be current. 

As we develop products from this content, we need to offer abundant opportunities here for search, direct sales, self-serve advertising and targeted advertising. If we develop the place people connect when they are coming into the community or changing their level of involvement in the community (for instance, when you develop a new interest or your children reach school age), we have tremendous lead-generation opportunities. We can provide one place to start your paper, hook up your power, register children for schools, etc., collecting fees from the businesses and schools. And it’s such a useful tool that you keep coming back as long as you live in the community.

History

We have long called newspapers the “first rough draft of history.” We need to dig up the historical work we’ve already done on important events and anniversaries for Cedar Rapids and other communities, presenting .

For instance, the full content of the “Epic Surge” book and DVD and the Iowa City tornado book should be part of the history section, along with the Gazette’s 125th anniversary issue. We can present the archive on topics or issues in town. We can make this a wiki, too, inviting each faith community, school or civic group and neighborhood association to post its own history or asking for people’s remembrances of big events in the community or of the community’s experience in big national or world events. Whether we write them ourselves or invite community members to write them, we need histories of the communities and neighborhoods most impacted by the flooding — Czech Village, Time Check, Palo, etc.

Much of this content can draw on our archives. For instance, we might not immediately write histories of important local companies such as Rockwell Collins, AEGON or Quaker Oats, or they might not provide their own histories. But at the least, we can compile links to important stories we have written through the years about those companies. Even where we do have current histories, the archives will let people get more information and spend more time digging through our content.

Maybe we don’t have huge revenue opportunities in compiling the community history, but we might have some targeted advertising opportunities. And we can do direct sales of books relating to community history, tickets to museums, etc. Even if we don’t develop strong revenue from this, the audience we build here, by adding to our image as the source for all answers and information about Iowa and its communities, builds audience for the more lucrative parts of the site.

Attractions, events and institutions

The Tacoma News Tribune’s Mount Rainier guide, Cape Cod Times tourism guide and Orange County Register beach guide provide several strong models for us to follow in becoming the authority on our local attractions, institutions and events. We can do this in partnership with or in competition with the attractions and institutions themselves and the organizations sponsoring the events.

We already produce lots of content about these attractions, events and institutions. Instead of getting one day’s value out of that content, we need to aggregate it, add to it and organize everything into a community resource that provides easily searchable answers to everything you want to know about this attraction, event or institution. Our database on Hawkeye  football history and dining guide are examples of the kind of content we want to develop here. Topics or institutions on which we would want to develop deep, detailed resources might include the University of Iowa (and parts of the university, such as the Writers Workshop and Hawkeye sports teams), Amana Colonies, Hoover birth site, Iowa caucuses, Rockwell Collins, Quaker Oats, the Czech and Slovak Museum and African American Museum.

Of course, with all of this, we should start with our core communities and the region where our brand is the strongest, but Iowa.com gives us a brand with statewide potential and this is certainly an example of an area where we could expand into statewide content.

The revenue possibilities here are extensive: selling tickets to events and attractions as well as reservations for nearby lodging; selling books, DVDs and other informational items, whether we produce them or retail them for the attractions themselves; selling memorabilia, logo clothing and so on.

User-generated Encyclopedia

Wikipedia has had some credibility issues, but it presents a lot of accurate information that is useful to a lot of people and we can apply the same model on the local/state level. We will need to address some labeling and credibility issues so that we present the “collective wisdom” (which sometimes is the collective ignorance) separately from the authoritative, verified information we compile. We would require only users whose identification has been verified to contribute to this wiki. We need to design it so that contributions are attributed to people, linking to their profiles citing their claimed credentials (and the model would allow participants to challenge or support the credentials of people who were being unduly boastful or modest).

We should prime the pump here, inviting known experts on topics or officials of organizations to start entries in their areas of expertise.

Continue reading the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection with Personal content and connection.

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