We been meeting up with Rick Waghorn
to talk local recently and a couple of things have come out of our fruitful discussions. One is the inauguration of the VIP Club
(Very Independent Publishers), which will happen at our gaff on the 28th January. Read Ricks blog about it here
or mail him at rickwaghorn [at] aol.com if you want to come along.
The other thing of interest is an emerging plan for an ultra local news platform
that will allow any local journalist (and there's going to be a lot of them out of jobs soon) or blogger to easily start an very local (think postcode) website. We call it a platform because we aim to provide precise software & server toolsets to allow people to simply setup, populate and monetise the sites.
Of course, this will take time and energy. So we're thinking of putting it in as a 4IP project and I thought that, before we did, it would be useful to seek the feedback of the great and the good of this fine site. So below is the outline I jotted down after the latest talk with Rick about how we would, bricks and mortar style, go about actually building the thing.
Have a read and tell us what you think. Is ultra local news a 4IP thing? Are we interested in enabling new forms of content publishing? Can we reinvent local here?
Notes on ultra local news: MR, 8th January 2008
The approach should consist of 4 discrete parts:
1. The Platform
2. The Package
1. The Platform
This is the free 'bandwidth' & tools we will offer local postcode sites in exchange for a simple revenue share. It will enable local communities to get sites up and running at minimum cost and with a clear simplicity that negates the need for external advisors. The platform is envisaged to encompass:
This is the multi-user version of Wordpress that powers Wordpress.com. Open source and free. It will enable us to create many thousands of sites off a single code base sitting on a single server instance.
Millicent audio & video technologies
for content capture
for auto creation of local video advertising
for re-versioning web content for public screens in libraries, council offices etc...
SaaS server setup
An integrated server network that cross indexes and hosts all of the sites, allowing easy creation & searching of any postcode site. This is a behind the scenes infrastructure thing but we do it all the time.
2. The Package
The approach has to be that we offer local people/journalists a 'website in a box' - get it, unpack it and start producing content in minutes. This should be free with a revenue share operated on ad & syndication income.
The package will include the above services plus a built in Wordpress template and associated plugins, such as Twitter feeds, calendars, video inserts, chat etc... The template will be adaptable - from a simple upload of new home page imagery to a full redesign of the site.
The package should be able to be installed in under an hour and filled with content within 24 hours. There should be a range of support options available - from email to on site consultancy - which may be charged at a premium rate.
Content is not really my area but there does need to be a policy on who is in charge of admin & content. Does a single journalist take out a timeshare on a local site? How do we make it easy for politicians to use VideoBoo to add their content? What is the status and responsibility of community reporters? How do we allow local sites to bind in other local services such as libraries, schools, councils, health authorities etc. We can provide a clear technical solution here ( ie a health widget) but there is an ownership issue that needs to be addressed.
Outputs are secondary but important. They relate to what influence & revenue the sites can have on the local community. A few I've thought about:
Public Screens: Millicent Pro can take the active data from the community website and represent it as realtime audio visual content on public screens in libraries, council offices and local shopping real estate. This is essentially a local TV strategy.
Syndication: I reckon there is syndication money to be made through deals with national broadcasters like ITN, Reuters & BBC. If these sites can be ears & eyes on the ground, then there is a valuable & ongoing revenue stream to be realized here.
Advertising: Whatever approach we decide on, this is probably the biggest killer part of the proposal. A new and profitable approach to local advertising, whether it's Google, Addiply, Mooky or something else, is the real killer once an audience has been built.