I have had this thought, for the last several years, that our current method of creating newspapers is backwards. We, for example, try to cover a two county area primarily, another six counties to a lesser extent, and another eight counties to some extent. We do so in a way that is somewhat interesting to most people in the form of stories. Then we chop it up and put it online.
But, that is not how people live. I live in a rural neighborhood with a one mile circumference, am part of school, church and business communities, and several communities of interest. County lines don’t matter to those communities. I would like to know items of significance to those specific communities, developed by people who care about the communities, to be available to me in meaningful context wherever I am. That is why I am trying to explore the organization and operating systems for a local information utility (LIU) as advocated by API. Mark Briggs, in his recent blog on the future of local media being explored at latimes.com, still did not explore the fundamental shift needed to create the LIU.
In order to start, we need to eliminate our dependence on the packaged story. Our content needs to start with meaningful text snippets, tagged in many relevant aspects, and linked to tagged photos, video and audio. From that “atomized” content, we can created the packaged products, either print or digitally distributed.
If we can make the LIU happen, then the newspaper on paper, covering all of those counties could be organized to give me a broad overview of state, national and international events, not in detail, but so that I know they happened and can get more detail if I desire through the numerous news outlets that have made those stories commodities. The newspaper would have a local daily section, probably at a city level, that gave context and insight to major issues facing that larger community, with an emphasis on government, social service and community service issues, spiced with the best of the hyper-local and community of interest happenings. A weekly section could focus on the neighborhood. And, if I was interested in any of those stories, I could get deep and rich detail, prepared by those who cared deeply about those specific communities. But, I would not have to wade through stories to get at that detail. I would be referred to a “local wiki”, where the context snippets are put into context, or I could search directly for those items of content I was targeting.
Brittanica, no stranger to disruptive change, has a forum this month, mostly on the struggles of the newspaper industry, and some hope for future states. Blogs alone won’t give us the information to create, sustain and enjoy meaningful, high performance communities. The local content needs to be structured in a meaningful context, and who better to do it than the local media company, turned upside down and backwards?
A good description of why we need to do so was provided by Wediabuzz, noting the difference between journalists and bloggers at Web 2.0.