My small town news curation experiment

October 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yesterday I read Lauren Rabaino’s blog post about the new Seattle Times (which is the parent company of my employer, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin) blog called the Today File which looks like a great project. Kudos to her and everyone involved. I’ll be following the project and I hope to glean some good ideas from them in the following months. In fact, from her post, I’ve already gotten some tips about a couple of WordPress plugins that we will probably implement on the U-B blogs.

And her post also got me to thinking about a project we recently launched at the U-B.

For the past 3 months, I’ve been experimenting with a curation (call it aggregation if you like) feature called the Daily Launchpad. It’s been featured on our front page every morning and lives beyond that as a Tumblr site.

Because of limitations of our CMS, I’ve had to rely on the Tumblr RSS feed and Yahoo Pipes to pull in the content to our website. It’s my inelegant solution for a dynamically updating widget.

We’ve had a handful of people follow us on Tumblr. And we’ve gotten some good feedback from our cross posts on Facebook. But the traffic and interactions have not gotten close to what I had hoped for.

What I curate:

  • Primarily local/regional news, photos and video
  • National headlines
  • Viral videos
  • Quirky news

How I promote DL:

  • We push links to Twitter and Facebook
  • We sometimes refer to DL in the print edition

Where  I curate from:

  • Tumblr dashboard
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google alerts
  • AP wire
  • Community blogs and local college publications
  • Regional and state-wide news sites

Where I’ve struggled:

  • Getting more community submitted content
  • Finding interesting local content has been hit or miss

What’s next:

I am going to look at a couple of options to replace the Yahoo Pipes widget as there is some lag on how quickly new posts appear and the widget itself seems to not work well with some browsers. I’m considering using Coveritlive. I would embed their widget on our front page everyday the same way I have done with the Yahoo Pipes code. This would allow a more dynamic/live feel. And will allow us to interact with readers through the Coveritlive commenting system and it’s integration of Twitter hashtags.

I also want to push DL as a community bulletin board where people can share photos, questions, ideas, news tips, etc. And it’s got potential as a crowd-sourcing platform along with Facebook and Twitter. I’ve done some of this already. Around the time of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 I asked our community to submit information about where they were on that day. I placed a Wufoo submission form on a Tumblr page. We got about 80 submissions of which I was able to generate a map using Batch Geo.

I will be be closely monitoring the traffic and interactions in the next month or so. And we’ll see where it goes from there. So far it’s been a fun experiment.


Social media opportunities in local online business directories

February 11, 2009 § 3 Comments

Recently had a look at the Ellington CMS which is built on the open-source framework Django. A very slick CMS with many of the features that our news org is looking for. However it is a bit out of our price-range. Granted our price-range is pretty close to single digit. As in $0. Not really but you get the idea.

Also got a chance to see their business directory product called Marketplace. Again a very slick product. Looks to be very user friendly on the customer side and very easy on the business/vendor side. When a local business buys a listing they get a user-name and password that allows them to add as much or as little information about their business as they want. And they can update the information as often or as infrequent as they want. They can also upload photos/videos of their products or services. They can post coupons and information about ongoing sales. How about adding a customer service component?

It got me thinking about Twitter. Recently it doesn’t take much to get me to think about Twitter but this particular thought about how to integrate Twitter as social media/customer service platform into an online business directory. How about if Twitter or CoverIt Live was integrated into the business listing. Or how about a live video stream using Mogulus or Ustream. It would add a human face to the business. Maybe the business can set up a schedule when someone would be available to answer questions – “Customer service avalable Mon, Wed., Fri. 2-3 p.m. Sure individual business owners could set up their own Twitter/Mogulus accounts separate from their business directory listing. But many small businesses have a hard enough time updating an online directory listing or a website much less have the time or inclination to create yet another account on some web service they know very little about. This way it is already built in.

Would that be attractive to local businesses? Would it be added value to their basic listing? Perhaps someone is already doing this?

2009 – New year brings new goals

January 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

New years’ resolutions. We all make them. I’ve made my fair share of them and I’m pretty sure my success rate is in the single digits percentage-wise. But that is not going to stop me this year. This year I’ve got 3 sets of resolutions – family, personal, work. My family resolutions mean the most to me and are the most personal (yeah even more personal than my “personal” resolutions) so I’ll keep those private. But I’ll share the others.

Personal resolutions for 2009

  • Work out and lose 10 lbs. In actuality, I should lose about 15-20 lbs but 2009 isn’t about torturing myself.
  • Blog/Podcast at least 3 times per week. That includes this blog and a couple others I’ve floating around.
  • Complete one creative project per month. That would include: screenprinting, music, video and writing.
  • Read 2 books per month. At the very least, read one per month. We’ve got a bookcase full of Maria‘s books that I should dive into.
  • Join at least one adult sports league. I’m looking at you basketball. 

Work resolutions for 2009

  • Grow our Walla Walla social network to 1,000 members by the end of the year. We are currently at 35. So ….
  • From the social network spin off a Walla Walla Wiki page.
  • Drive more traffic (a lot more) to our online sports content. It drives me mad how little traffic it currently generates. That means expanding our coverage to include “live” score updates from games.
  • Help move the newsroom to more mobile reporting. That means laptops, text messaging, Twittering, live video. Which means using services such as Twitter, Seesmic, CoveritLive, Flickr, Ustream, Twitpic and others.
  • Increase traffic to by 25-30% by year end. More quality, engaging, informative, and yes, entertaining videos with better promotion.

So there they are. There they are indeed. The difference this year with my resolutions is that I am broadcasting it to the world. In the past I could eventually “lose” my list and therefore not feel obliged to complete any of them.

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