Archive for the ‘Personal content’ Category

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts