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Archive for April, 2009

This is the 13th part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection. 

Retirement may not be a fertile market with today’s retirees, who tend to prefer print and broadcast to digital communication. But Baby Boomers are starting to retire and the Complete Community Connection should develop personal-content platforms to serve them.  (more…)

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This is the 12th part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

Another life stage where the Complete Community Connection can provide rich content and pursue new revenue opportunities is the empty nest.

We can help empty nesters build maps showing where the children have scattered, so you can click and open windows for each offspring, with information and photos of in-laws, grandchildren, etc. Another map could track the empty nesters’ travels. They could compile wish lists of things to do before they retire, with gift registries so family and friends can use birthdays, holidays and anniversaries to help their dreams come true. When they register, they would fill out their interests, so we can email advice and advertising to help with health, travel, hobbies and financial planning.

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

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This is the 11th part of the personal content section of the Blueprint for the Complete Community Connection. 

As I wrote a couple of months ago, illness was a staple of the small-town newspaper where I started in this business. It also is an opportunity for the Complete Community Connection.

When someone is hospitalized or at home recovering from an illness or homebound with an extended or terminal illness, we need to give them a web page (or a part of their existing page) to keep people posted on how they’re doing. They could enter their hospital and the page would automatically post visiting hours. (more…)

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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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