End of an Era: III

Creating a service that benefits both the user and the news industry

When a newspaper goes online, is it still a newspaper? My answer is no. I think there are a lot of people in the industry that feel they cannot cross over and provide anything but articles and photos.

Picture this: You are a news paper publisher who is creating a subscription-based social network as a platform to better show case your news to the public. But, you will need to offer something never offered by a news service before. Here are a few ideas that maybe able to get you started:

Provide exclusive live video for your network. Whether it is your local town hall meeting or Friday night football game, you are helping your audience to become more involved with their community. Be the CSPAN of the web and take a cue from LiveStation.com and add a way for people to interact with each other and with what they see through the video in real time. Use polls to help the audience understand more about themselves. Use links to drive them back to your free news website. By creating a platform where the community can gather to talk about the news with each other, you are starting to create a more stable future. People are likely to comeback for the shared experience.

Larger networks can let users choose between two streams like ESPN provides for for its users for un-televised football games. Let the user pick his/her favorite camera angle. That is sticky. You will keep them on your site longer when the user feels like they are in control of their own experience.

Tell your Photojournalists shooting the big game their images will be sent via WiFi/3G directly to the live photo feed on the website, so the community can keep up with the action. Then, charge the community for each download.

Create an online radio station to reach people at work or on their mobile devises. Online radio is the new black. People get just as excited when you say their name online as they do when it is over the air if they think other people are listening.

Give opportunities for your audience to speak out. Provide blog space. Provide a status message support. Let them create an identity on your site. Provide a service, and a brand they want to identify with. People will be more willing to tip off journalists, report bad politics if they feel like they “know” their paper better.

Focus on investigative journalism. You will never be able to keep up with Twitter with breaking news. What is badly needed on the web is fully interactive interactive investigative journalism. I can get an article about the local town hall from a blog. What I cannot get is a larger breakdown of spending in a database driven multimedia report.

Provide a free six month to a year subscription on the Kindle. Give it away for free to generate chatter. Create a iPhone or G-phone application that allows your community to connect to your service. Let them watch your exclusive video feeds from their mobile devise.

Don’t neglect your regular website. Just because you have a private social network does not mean you are going underground. Take a cue from the NY Times and make sure your site provides an experience people will want to come back for day after day. Just like they did with their cup of coffee and newspaper for the past few decades.

Open your site’s content to the web via API. Look at Twitter. It is a service packaged in one big API. That is something the news industry should try to mimic.  

You can provide innovative options for your news site as well.

Allow users to rate and comment on your news articles, like Amazon lets you rate and comment on it’s products. If you really feel bold let the users rate the journalists like you rate sellers on Ebay. Let users vote on the best comments by pushing the best comments to the top and the bad ones down to the bottom.

Let’s face it, the reason why newspapers are in trouble is because we have failed to monetize the next generation of news consumers. Walled Gardens do not work for headline news, but it is amazing what people will pay for community services and in-depth reporting they could use. 

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