Your name in the paper. That’s it. That’s the secret.
If your name were in the paper, you would read it. So would your friends and family. And you would start to read every paper.
Local news sites lack the most important part of local news: stories about people. Like Narcissus, we want to read about ourselves. We want to see and be seen, to admire and be admired.
Small newspapers as exemplars
In Geoffrey Moore’s Dealing with Darwin, there is the story of a remarkable newspaper in a small town in North Carolina. What distinguished this newspaper was greater than 100% subscription rates for the city. In other words, not only were all the town residents buying the paper, but so were residents of neighboring towns.
How did the editor achieve this?
He refuses to print Associated Press articles, national and international news. His rationale: no one wants to read the same news in a local paper as a national paper.
Instead, his journalists are compensated as a function of the number of distinct residents named or photographed in an article. He made the same realization. Simply, people want to read about themselves and others.
Get the social in local
Local news sites need to get people involved, instead of today’s boring crime reports, local sports and weather. With Facebook, Twitter and other services, it’s easy to pull all this data out of the ether and aggregate it, creating a customized version of People magazine for a neighborhood.
For more proof, look at the success of New York Times wedding pages (huge fees are paid to appear here), university alumni magazines (I only read mine to see who is mentioned) and the continued success of magazines like New York and San Francisco containing collections of photos and stories of socialites.
One way of getting there
Build a mobile app for residents to submit photos with one line descriptions. Aggregate by latitude and longitude/neighborhood, and post it to the web. The business case is clear: see Jeff Jarvis’ presentation.
If you’re interested in building something like this, give me a shout: ttunguz at redpoint dot com. It might be the next big thing in mobile and local.