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As you know, traditional newspapers of the dead tree variety are falling victim to the Internet. Most newspapers have an Internet presence themselves, but they don't generate enough in the way of advertising dollars. And once a local paper is online, it competes with every newspaper in the world. Their only competitive advantage is local news, and so far that doesn't seem to be enough.

My solution is what I will call super-local news. It's not just news about your community, but also about your homeowner's association, your apartment building, your kids' classrooms, and the sports teams they belong to. Every family would have their own online local newspaper, assembled electronically every day based on that family's log-in information. Your personal and super-local news would include everything from world events to school lunch menus for that day. Eventually it might even include your child's report card. Obviously the schools have to be partners in this, and I think that could happen. Most school information is online already or heading in that direction. It just needs to feed to the newspaper's site for aggregation.

The key is for the super-local information to come to the newspapers from volunteers. For example, every youth sport team would have a parent with a digital camera and the willingness to upload some pictures and write a few lines about the game. A simple user interface would make it easy to integrate the news about little Becky's soccer game with news of the Lakers. They would have equal billing.

The key is to get kids interested in the online version of the super-local news. Kids care about themselves more than they care about anything else in the world. So the super-local news has to have lots of content about classrooms, Cub Scout meetings, local movies listings rated less then R, and that sort of thing.

Parents could even have the ability to manipulate their super-local newspaper and add birthday pictures, for example, and forward that day's paper to grandparents and friends.

With this concept the local newspaper extends their business model to include working with schools and youth sports teams to make sure there is a steady stream of family-oriented news in addition to world and local stuff. Once you have kids reading newspapers, the potential for advertising is much greater.

Another great service the super-local news could serve is organizing a family's schedule. Imagine if your family could add its appointments, test dates, assignment deadlines, and invitations to the super-local news so everyone in the family can see it. This would be made easier by allowing families to select what sports teams and classrooms apply to their kids so all of that schedule information populates the calendar automatically.

Done right, the super local newspaper could start capturing the business of evite.com by offering a feature to allow invitations to flow into the family's online calendar. And it could capture the Shutterfly.com business by allowing you to share pictures in a newspaper format, which could be amusing when you add your own headlines, and share them with friends.

Local newspapers wouldn't have the resources to develop the software to make this work, so I imagine the technology being developed by Google, for example, and managed by the local news folks. It would be a big job keeping the school and other super-local information flowing. And of course selling to local advertisers is best done in person.

And of course the news would have lots of Dilbert comics.

[Update: For all the people who mentioned Facebook, or RSS feeds, or other services, you're confusing the technology with the business model. -- Scott]
 
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Oct 31, 2010
Great advise! Extremely informative, simple to understand, and easy to follow. Thanks for taking the time to share.
 
 
Apr 29, 2009
Looks like Microsoft's take on social media has some implementation similarities to Scott's idea:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/04/28/technology/hempel_microsoft.fortune/?postversion=2009042904

"The company on Wednesday will begin testing a new social-networking platform called Microsoft Vine...Vine's other twist: It plans to target public safety officials and concerned citizens seeking emergency information....Activity will be limited to two actions: alerts and reports.

Think of the platform as the updated version of a 9-1-1 call or the local public radio station. Consumer users of the service can create profiles and make groups "my family" or "my softball team," to whom they can send messages.

A tree down in your neighborhood? You could post a report about that. Practice canceled because of the rain? Send an alert to your teammates. And in more serious situations, a flood, say, the site will provide information on how to handle the emergency. "
 
 
Apr 29, 2009
Looks like Microsoft's take on social media is has some implementation similarities to Scott's idea:
http://money.cnn.com/2009/04/28/technology/hempel_microsoft.fortune/?postversion=2009042904

"The company on Wednesday will begin testing a new social-networking platform called Microsoft Vine...Vine's other twist: It plans to target public safety officials and concerned citizens seeking emergency information....Activity will be limited to two actions: alerts and reports.

Think of the platform as the updated version of a 9-1-1 call or the local public radio station. Consumer users of the service can create profiles and make groups "my family" or "my softball team," to whom they can send messages.

A tree down in your neighborhood? You could post a report about that. Practice canceled because of the rain? Send an alert to your teammates. And in more serious situations, a flood, say, the site will provide information on how to handle the emergency. "
 
 
Apr 4, 2009
How about that: http://springwise.com/media_publishing/hyperlocal_newspaper_turns_blo/
If I got you right this looks somehow exactly like you idea, however not that sophisticated :)
 
 
Apr 3, 2009
I think this is a good idea that could work, but would require a standard be created that could easily seed information from all sources, provide an easy method for local content to be created, and a way for all sources to seed their own advertising.
 
 
Apr 2, 2009
This is actually something that the company I work for (a local newspaper company in Scotland) is working towards. Obviously, not the hyper local extreme of family news, but local community news, organisations, clubs, right down to the smallest village.

Right now we are getting more local, but not super-local yet.
 
 
Mar 30, 2009
What Scott has described is not a business model. It is a piece of free software that might come out of Google labs. Where would the revenue stream come from?

People already have the tools to create their own newspaper. A simple RSS reader can do that.

The newspapers are going to go down, and they are going to go down HARD. Anyone who tries to hang onto the old model of comic distribution is going to go down with them.
 
 
Mar 30, 2009
Kurtz, you are blown away by your inadequacy. Go back to not updating your fanclub.
 
 
Mar 30, 2009
I am blown away by this article. Blown away by how ignorant it is considering how connected I imagine the source to be.

Most syndicated cartoonists are standing frozen like deers in headlights now that the one entity willing to purchase their comic strips are dying off. They're all seeing their income just dry up and blow away and none of them can envision any other business model for their work.

Newspapers buy their comic strips. But newspapers are going away. So now let's create another entity to buy our comic strips. Somebody has to buy our comic strips. Won't someone please buy our comic strips?!!!

I would expect this from a lot of the less technologically savvy cartoonists, but I didn't expect it from Scott Adams. Surely he understands the internet better than this.

Scott it's very simple. Your audience is connected to the internet. You are connected to the internet. Just deliver your comics to the readers directly via the conduit that already exists. You don't have to create some middleman to sell your strips to.

Ditch your syndicate, Scott. Ditch your newspapers. You don't need them. Your readers are here online and they want to read your comics and buy your books and your toys and your merchandise. And you can keep all the money yourself.

Any money you spend buying out your contract and hiring a small staff to run your business will be made up in a year's time.

You don't have to invent FUTURE-SPACE-NEWSPAPERS to keep your income coming in.
 
 
Mar 30, 2009
Hi Scott,
Would you forward this request on to someone who can deal with it.

I know this is off topic, but I bought the Dilbert 2.0 which is great. However it looks like my DVD is missing most of the content.
I have folders Dilbert00 through Dilbert08 and then I'm missing everything up Dilbert89 through Dilbert99
6979 files in 20 folders however, so maybe the structure of the directories is throwing me.

I thought their would be a viewer to let me go through the strips by date or keyword.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 30, 2009
I'll just mention a few things that drive us away from buying hard copies of non-local papers.

Papers could put more real effort into reporting on national and international news. The great majority of that in the papers is simply news feeds from national sources like AP. You can read those just as easily on line. Invest in some actual investigative reporters instead of going the car maker route of firing your way to prosperity. Remember, after a certain point (now long past), you're firing your customers, too.

Those of us who hate commercials have noticed that from a square inch perspective, more than half the space in newspapers is advertising. We know that's how newspapers make their money, but that doesn't stop us from hating it. We don't have that problem on line.

Finally, it would help them to invest a little in improving newspaper vending machine technology, so the machines stop eating my quarters while refusing to give up the paper.
 
 
Mar 30, 2009
Google for "hynode"! - This covered personalized news delivery on the technical side together with commercial aspects of automagically combining input of various economic source !$%*!$%*!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 29, 2009
Oh, and not surprisingly, one of the creative forces behind outside.in, Steven Johnson, has some thoughts on traditional media:

http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/2009/03/old-growth-media-the-aftermath.html

 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 29, 2009
Check out outside.in (http://outside.in). They have some of what you describe, but not all. Certainly though, they are similarly inspired. From their FAQ:

outside.in is a hyperlocal news and information service. We help you find places around you, get news for the places and neighborhoods you really care about, and engage more with your neighbors. We also offer bloggers and online publishers GeoToolkit, a great resource with tools, maps, widgets, and stats
What does hyperlocal mean?

Hyperlocal means news and information on a level beyond what traditional media provides. Until now, most "local" sites didn’t actually get more, well, local than cities or towns. They assumed that just because you live in a specific city or town you are looking for the same news as everyone else. Hyperlocal content gives you the news and information for the area right around where you are, like the block around your office or the neighborhood where you live.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 29, 2009
Hmmm...Having actually worked in the publications business, I would say the idea of a "Super News" paper wouldn't work. I really don't care what's newsworthy about the family living next to me, or what's going on in anyone else's personal life for that matter.

I don't care about Muffy's piano recital. I don't care that Parker, Hunter, or Carter scored a goal at the Yuppie Under-Five's soccer match. I don't care if Dear Old Daddy, or Lovely Old Mumsie, received 1st prize in the Annual Rose Watering & Fertilizing Competition.

News such as this DOESN'T MATTER. The audience will be extremely narrow. Using "Tree Killing" as an example, the reason today's newspapers are failing is not because of the Internet -- IMHO. Rather, they are failing because -- and can throw bricks if you want to -- they have lost touch with the traditional Conservative American reader.

Think about it: Do you really want to read about what celebrity threw up at a society party? Do you want to read about gay cowboys? Or how to tell if your cat is lesbian? Do you really care what stupid name some idiot actor gave his/her unwanted trophy child?

There is a reason why all we see on TV, or read in the papers, is blood, guts and gore: The newspapers, and alleged journalism colleges today, no longer demand credibility. I recently read an obituary in my local paper on a WWII sailor. I went to Wikipedia and -- gosh! -- there was the same obituary word-for-word. What happened about contacting the family and asking for details? Newspapers no longer demand, and colleges no longer teach, that their students and/or employees go out and RESEARCH a story and do INVESTIGATIVE journalism.

Everything written in the papers today is all junk. Every last bit of it. That's why I no longer read the newspapers. Whoever produces a newspaper that is well-written, with excellent articles about serious issues that challenge one's intellect, and ignores the tabloidish "Jerry Springer" garbage, will make millions.

Print newspapers today would not be in trouble if they changed their CONTENT. Americans may be lazy, but we're not stupid. We see the newspapers for what they are: Worthless purveyors of !$%* and junk. And it's an insult to the reader.

Sorry, Scott. But, I don't think "Super News" would have the content that the average, intelligent American would want to read about.

Too bad "The World Daily News" went out of business.....


 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 28, 2009
If you blog about your life and nobody reads it, are you really there?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 28, 2009
If you blog about your life and nobody reads it, are you really there?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 28, 2009
Super local news is another cool idea coming from you, Scott!

Only thing that bothers me is that recommendation and personalization systems are way behind what they are supposed to do to help us navigate through such limitless amount of content. I'm sure most people would be easily frustrated trying to navigate through a constantly growing micro-local interest stories inventory to find what mattered to them. Evidence of lack of relevance in personalization systems from big players:

1) when I clean my Spam folder in Google's, the ad above promises a recipe for "Spam Swiss Pie".

2) when I download Visio Reader from Microsoft, their recommendation reads something like "people who downloaded Visio Reader 2007 also downloaded... Vision Reader 2003". Wow.

3) After buying a Kindle 2.0 from Amazon, I continued to receive emails announcing "Kindle 2.0 has arrived!". After returning and being refunded for my purchase (damn thing wouldn't let me see the details of a book without actually triggering a purchase), Amazon keeps sending me emails suggesting "New Kindle books".
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
Nice article, although I have to agree with some bloggers that there are already systems like this, one of them being "Facebook". But making a system with even more local emphasis, which seems to be what you are supporting, does have benefits. Here's an idea similar to yours.

What if the federal government started creating programs supporting and partially funding town and city websites, each with user accounts and different sections? This way, people could support their local buisnesses, see community programs, and even learn about festivals and events taking place.

There would be a charge for membership. I do think people would make the investment, because the material is news they really need, not national hype. As long as the fees were kept reasonable, the organization, which would be a private buisness aided by the local, state, and federal government, would have enough funds to pay off its elcotronic debts and its reporters and producers.

Such websites already exist, but are often underfunded, hard to access, or just plain complicated. Repaving the information superhighway seems like a great way to stimulate the economy. We just need to get started.
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
phantom ii - you're baaaack? blah blah blah...yawn
 
 
 
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