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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Mar 27, 2009
For the adults, you would have local restaurants, entertainment venues, and crime. The local police blotter is absolutely fascinating to everyone. Even if it's just kids violating curfew, it's fascinating.
Mar 27, 2009
A place where people can upload photos, share news about their lives and plan and check out local events? That allows local advertisers to have focused ads?

Sounds like Facebook. With maybe a dash of an RSS aggregator and a side of Twitter. Actually, Facebook supports both ideas, so scratch that last part.
Mar 27, 2009
Isn't this Facebook?
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Mar 27, 2009
The post about RSS feeds in general is right on. Got my vote. I find it humorous though that people only mention Google as a source for news when many other sites have been doing it long before Google. I've been using Yahoo! for over 10 years and have been able to customize my portal to my liking. I can even add in ANY RSS or Atom feed I want. I have a feed on mine that pulls in a specific search from Google news. All we need is more local content and you're good to go. Anyway, Google is great but isn't the only option out there for news.
Mar 27, 2009
"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. Your personal and super-local news would include everything from world events to school lunch menus for that day. "

My hometown weekly covered just about all that you are saying--and still does for the most part. It had hospital admissions/discharges, police blotter, school lunch menus, coverage of all school concerts and musicals, community items where people listed who had come to visit them in the past week (!), and full coverage of all local sports--not just school sports but full listings of things like church bowling and softball league results, full participant/times listing for local 10K races, etc. My subscription during college was the main thing which staved off homesickness! Some of those things have gone by the wayside (I imagine folks would now sue for their hospital admission being listed!), but it has survived the digital age well so far, posting online as well as retaining its print edition.

you can check it out at http://www.rocket-courier.com
Mar 27, 2009
Scott, someone seems to have already beat you to it, in terms of empowering every day people in to becoming local news publishers, take a look at http://www.printcasting.com/

You are not a genius, Scott for thinking of this, just very tuned in to the possibilities that current technology represents, something we could all do if we put our minds to it.
Mar 27, 2009
Yeah, we need personal news. Call them superlocal or whatever!
I stopped reading morning papers many years ago.
A service like MeeHive.com could be useful. I read my personal news every day!
It could be used even for superlocal news. You just need a rss-stream and someone ready to post news of course...

Mar 27, 2009
This sounds like a winning idea to me. I have been shocked by the amount of paperwork, newsletters, and forms my kindergartner brings home. Having it all organized into a website along local news of interest would be fantastic.
Mar 27, 2009
Yes, facebook is a wonderful thing.
Mar 27, 2009
The print newspapers that are failing have one thing in common: their news reporting is strongly biased to the left. Same with the network news, particularly NBC and certain "journalists" like the perky Katie Couric, who are also having ratings that are falling like stones, while Fox News continues to dominate its time slots. In the last ratings period, the O'Reilly Factor had more viewers than CNN, MSNBC and CNBC combined.

The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, et. al., are all in trouble. It is with the greatest irony that what almost put the Chronicle down for the count was its union contracts. If the unions hadn't caved, the paper would have been forced to fold, but I digress.

The above-mentioned journals, and others such as the Chicago Sun-Times and LA Times, don't seem to realize (or won't admit) their leftward bias. But the people know it, and are tired of hearing only one side of the story. So the large newspapers are losing readership of those who consider themselves to be from slightly to very conservative. Would it surprise you to know that 60% of the people in the country so identify themselves? It's true. Even our home state of California, the bluest of the blue states, only voted 55% Democrat in the last election.

As readership falls, so do advertising rates and advertisers. All the community news in the world isn't going to change that, as long as the papers put ideology ahead of profits.

The alternative media is biased to the right, because that's the only way the rest of the folks who don't live in the big cities can get their news, and because that's where the money is. People watch them because they're entertaining and don't just regurgitate the party line. Rupert Murdock, who is no conservative, does realize where the money is - hence, Fox News. Those of you who have never watched Fox News don't realize how truly fair and balanced their news reporting (not their talk shows, admittedly right-leaning) is.

So stuff as much school lunch menus and high-school sporting results as you want. As long as the major media keeps pretending that opinion is fact, people will continue to leave them in droves.
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Mar 27, 2009
Great idea. I hear they call it "facebook"
Mar 27, 2009
An intreguing idea, Scott.

Although you must remember that often there are members of the "press" present at the school sporting events - the students who contribute to the school newspaper. So instead of just getting on their school rag, those students would now get a wider audience.

Or, you have just succeed into turning the New York Times into the PS 118 Gazette.

"All the news that fits, we print."
Mar 27, 2009
Just wanted to pick up on Scott's reference and the astute observations from "finders" about the complexity of handling very-local sports. Our company has been developing a hyper-local sports product called CommunitySportsDesk(sm) that provides a very structured approach to coach- or parent-provided results in youth and rec areas. It flows to a Web site for the community and can be reversed published by the newspaper as well. You can see this at http://ksn.kenoshanews.com. Headlines and lede grafs for the online stories are auto-generated from a minimal amount of information that's entered by users. Photos can be uploaded and attached to particular events.
Mar 27, 2009
Its a great idea, Scott, but I wouln't trust teenagers to post appropriate content. There would be hidden penises in every picture, and they would slip in teen-code words for sex and defecatory functions. Who wants to see a picture of Becky's soccer game if your 13 year-old sneaks a !$%*! into the background and a description of the team's strategy as a "Boston pancake?"
Mar 27, 2009
I can see this happening already. And I can't see it not continuing in this direction.

Of course, to fund it all, you would end up with advertising focused specifically for your family, too. That might be a good thing in general, but you might have to put up with some things you don't like, such as lots of ads for funeral homes if you are over a certain age.

And you may wonder why you were specifically targeted for that "member enhancement" product.
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Mar 27, 2009
I work for a tech company that provides news sites to a few local newspaper affiliates...specifically, I work on a team developing high school news. We do allow parents, coaches, etc, to upload scores, schedules, pictures, videos, etc of their kids, and it's going great with great buy in.

But the biggest challenge is that you can't just plop a box down for them to enter news in (since most people don't know html). Every sport is different, every game is different, and every town is different. To effictively display the information entered, it takes a lot of custom logic and custom programming which local news can't afford in general, and companies aren't specialized enough to provide.
Mar 27, 2009
Possibly you are correct. Note that the free local and special interest newspapers are thriving, and they are free.

But the problem is that the true name for micro-local interest stories is "gossip." Perhaps the national celeb gossip rags are surrogates for local gossip, catering to alienated people, who are deprived of their national ration of relevant local gossip.

But gossip is scandalous, by definition.

But then again, in the post privacy society, that would not be a problem would it? Except when the gossip subject comes after you with a shotgun, a traditional downside of the gossip biz.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 27, 2009
You are a GENIUS!

(Registered just to say that)
Mar 27, 2009
Google News already allows customizing for local news and I have a local group of RSS feeds in Google Reader set up. I have the browser set up to open those tabs, facebook, twitter, flickr, and a few other local tabs at the start. Open up Picasa and "sync with online web album" and you've got just about everything you mentioned here, only with far more options for customization. As said previously by eywillis15, the bottleneck seems to be with the number of local feeds available, not the tools used to aggregate them.
Mar 27, 2009
Something like this has already begun. Check out http://www.everyblock.com/ I think this will drastically change news once it gets going. There are only 11 cities in the USA right now. Hopefully this will grow.
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