Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Failing forward June 4, 2008

Filed under: community,journalism — contentninja @ 5:22 pm
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Rotary Club banners.

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Rob Curley of Lawrence, Kan., fame has given his detractors some fuel with an admission that he dropped the ball on the Washington Post’s hyperlocal online community experiment, LoudounExtra.com.

The Wall Street Journal’s Russell Adams writes about it on WSJ’s Web site today. The Post isn’t writing off the experiment yet, but Adams concludes:

“LoudounExtra.com remains little more than a skeleton of the site its architects pledged to build. One reason: the team of outsiders didn’t do enough to familiarize itself with Loudoun County or engage its 270,000 residents.”

Curley confesses that “I was the one who was supposed to know we should be talking to Rotary Club meetings every day. I dropped the ball.”

Curley also cites roadblocks put up by the Post, though, such as a lack of links from WashingtonPost.com to help drive traffic and the legal department squelching a plan to mine Loudoun-related content from other Web sites, like YouTube and Facebook.

Perhaps it’s too easy for those of us looking in from the outside to identify the problems: a team of outsiders who didn’t try hard enough to know and recruit the community; company silos getting in the way of content sharing; business processes getting in the way of progress; company brass bedazzled by a digital darling who, perhaps, wasn’t right for the job; a legacy company unwilling to bend/break the rules in the disruptive here and now.

But, damn, there are a lot of valuable lessons here for us as we build our own hyperlocal communities. No. 1 is know and be a part of your community.

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7 Responses to “Failing forward”

  1. Dan McCabe Says:

    Find new ways that the community finds their reflection and the authentic new voices. We need to be down to ground with town local, expanding into communities. Develop different ways to tell the story.

  2. Matthew M Says:

    “and the legal department squelching a plan to mine Loudoun-related content from other Web sites, like YouTube and Facebook”

    There is a company in Cedar Rapids that makes a lot of money mining data from sites.

  3. iowakitkat Says:

    Know the community or build a community from the things you know … as a small to middle size player in the internet, what other options do we have?
    But we have to move more quickly and throw some of the pebble communities before we find ourselves competing with other sites (hmmmm, does corridor biz journal and The Edge come to mind?)
    We’ve been talking about innovating for a long time now. Let’s commit some resources to the trench-level positions and get some of these things out there, at least.
    Keep learning the lessons from others’ failures, start trying, and put some resources behind it so the pebble doesn’t flounder in the water.
    Then talk about it and get the word out in those communities we’re cultivating. Doing a health niche on kidney dialysis? See if you can mention it in dialysis center newsletters. Give them something they can use (renal diet recipes), latest news on Medicare changes, etc. and they will come.
    You have to be aware on the niche pubs, though, that your greatest audience may grow to be much wider geographically than you ever anticipated.

  4. contentninja Says:

    @Dan: Yep, and one of the ways we “develop new ways to tell the story” is by letting community members help tell it.

    @Matthew: A great many legal questions are unanswered at this point in the disruptive journalistic space. Some folks are OK with risking it. Others, like the Post, are apparently not. Many folks assume that answers will come eventually with lawsuits.

    @iowakitkat: Consider that “community” may be something different than a product. What I want to build is an online community around content that lives apart from a product. Take your kidney dialysis example. Imagine an online community around that topic, where activist members of the community contribute content, from Medicare alerts to recipes, and where they can access our databases to give their content more context. Now imagine that a niche health product can mine that community’s content. THAT’s what I’m talking about, baby! :)

  5. iowakitkat Says:

    We’re talking about the same things, I think, Nettie.

    I’m just frustrated because I want to see us start doing something and because I want to be a part of those doings whether it’s kidney dialysis or entertainment.

    I realize I’ve been doing the online thing – 10 years plus – a lot longer than most, maybe that’s where my frustration originates.


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