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.


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