Citizen Journalism, Day 1: Local sites

 Lisa Williams (a genuine local), moderator 

 Apologies for the powerpoint. The conversation we're having on the net about citizen journalism has come to a stale place. New Yorker piece by Columbia J School dean, sounds exactly like one that appeared in the Annenberg a year ago.

 A brief offering of fuel for the conversation.. bring us to something new and different.

 The Thousand Placeblog Bet: Rise of Blogs as Part of the Local Media Ecology in the U.S.

 More than that many

 Usually only a dozen examples

 Lisa gets mail from folks who say they have these too.

 What a placeblog is.

 A criticism is that it's "minor", when they're really about the lived experience of a place.

 Attention will fall on stuff that newspapers cover, but in general there is not necessarily a lot of overlap between them. A lot of attention of a placeblog is often on what never appears in the newspaper. Need to defend that stuff... it's part of the conversation they have about their place.

 Lisa has a list of about 350 placeblogs. Then she started going on a state by state basis. Confident about getting to 1k or more.

 Fall into useful buckets

 Solo operators

 Group blogs, more than one author

 Community blogs

 Blogging networks, 'ist, hello city, metroblogs

 Filter blogs in larger populations, media x.2, have some original content. Gothamist

 Aggregators of bloggers in a particular area

 Regional newspapers. Wraparound.

 Statehouse blogs. some are partisand and political, but have an angle.

 (presentation slide shows overlap)


 Majority of placeblogs in midsize cities. 20-70k people,.

 Why? Private equity investors are strip mining local media. Chains. Local media sell out to private equity investor. make a mini-mogul out of yourself. They're looking for a payout in 3-7 years. Private ownership isn't necessarily much better than public.

 Story of Mass area sell-out chain of events (on slide)

 Series of equity investors buy the papers in a series of sellouts and expense cuttings.

 Lisa is not outnumbered by the local paper, which has one reporter.

 Placeblogs are growing as a result of paper shrinkage.

 urban populations are sinking while suburban and exurban coverage is growing.

 Globe promo about covering Watertown. "100 stories a year". and "if there was news in Watertown I'd have to move". In the absence of Real News, we still want to talk to each other. the paper is kind of like a static website while the local paper gets smaller.

 thought experiment with local blogs. (estimates of number of sites serving cities and towns in a given population range) Question... how much is the potential population reached if everybody looked? Apply growth rates and you get to full coverage by 2009.

 (Estimated percentage of people in a served community who become readers.)

 (Estimated number of readers who become contributors.)

 A myth: if a placeblog opens, people will rush to contribute. Number of actual contributors are small. If you're starting, expect to roll your rock uphill alone for a year. If you're lucky you'll get a few people who are really interested. Civics nerds, for example, are great contributors. Librarians like to contribute.

 Lessons from shuttered placeblogs

 many believe it's still a place of magical work creation.

 in the corp world, this is called 'user generated content'

 If 10% of placeblogs made $1k per month

 wouldn't speed the pulse of a VC.

 placeblogs have sprung up because tools are cfheap or free

 advertising is still just as hard to get.

 This will change if we get better geolocation technology.

 Tech that placeblogs need

 autodiscovery of blogs and blog posts via location

 plugins for one-off advertising

 lightweight, distributed directory technology

 going beyond reverse chronology

 Why "run into" something you could find if we had geotagging, for example.


 What about competition among hyperlocal community sites?

 Lisa: two in juneau (one is 'didjuneau')

 Above a certain population you run into good local newspapers, and fewer placeblogs.

 [Sheldon Adams?] Used to work for a small daily newspaper... struggling financially, losing subscribers... people complained that we didnt' cover local news. Found that in the 50s and 60s things changed from the hyperpersonal to filler. There was a biz model out there doing what blogs are doing, but with printing presses. There is a demand for something that's not woodward and bernstein.

 Lisa: "country correspondence" which was like "gardening barbed wire".

 Dan: Guy who worked for a big metro paper, went back to his local paper, killed the aunt mabel column that the next thing he did was reinstate that column.

 Lenn Witt: PJJournalism.org ? yochai Benkler's wealth of networks. Talks about 'sharing nicely'. Which is at one end of something, with citizen journalism at the other end. Need sharing nicely to work well, which requires a big pool of people. see minnesota public radio, and their 13K contributors. look for little things to ...

 Doc: example of Edhat.com in Santa Barbara.

 Congresspedia.org Looking for logs and citizen j sites covering national issues, to create a national directory.

 ___ connection between placeblogs and the likes of Edhat.

 Lisa: Bluffton , resort towns... you can read these sites for fun... photography is great. a different and other than reverse chronology stream of events...

 ___ call attention to discovery and chain of events... refreshing to hear Lisa recast citizen j.... folks should think more about the classification put forward... more they can do with tagging and metadata... surface, classify and point people to these things... need to disambiguate the findings...

 Dan: looking for help on metatags...

 Robert Winters, servingCambridge faithfully for 9 years...

 paradox of the suburban.. if you're in a cambridge, and living on the shoulder of Boston, the typical local will be picking up the Globe or the NYT. But ifyou go further out, it's more likely that people will be interested in the local paper.

 Lisa: First Suburbs study (report?). In the worst spot for media if you can see the skyline...

 Robert: I always assumed I'd never receive a dime from doing what I do. I don't have any idea how many people are in it for a biz opportunity vs. those in it for a charity. One problem with local papers, is that reporters, local journalists, with actual roots in the community, are vanishingly low. Nobody here knows aunt mabel. If you see articles of that nature, somebody sent it in. (Lisa: they're low paid.) Often the case that I'd break a story later carried in the local paper. Try to foster symbiosis.

 Lisa: I actively leak.

 ___ : Curious what happens when something gets picked up. do you get credited? When the objudsman for national public broadcasting uses my words verbatim...

 Robert: it's flattering, actually.

 Jason Kramis? Observations. I've been ripped off too. by newsweek. Grew up in Peabody, Mass. In the 70s. Possible growing up in industrial suburbs to not buy any paper but the local one and still be an informed citizen. Not the case now. Would aggree with the Congresspedia people that placebloggers should think aobut how to work in larger topics of politics and culture. Impottant to think about how you get paid for what you do. The papers that no longer exist had staff people. don't want to see a situation where people like robert and lisa do lots of good work while hteh people who get paid grab and use it. Need business models.

 Lisa: i could get off my back end and do the unfun work of finding advertisers. I think the thing underneath your question is, will theybe around if theydon't make money? Well, what lasts for a hundred years? YMCA, churches, voluntary organizations. My crackpot notion is for this to be around after idea. Needs to be useful enough to people that somebody picks up the ball.

 __ was a citizen journaliist in Wash D.C. for Pacifica... if yoiu want to donate your time to a civic cause, this is a good way. This is also a good way to do your job. If you're a local city worker or enviornm,entalist,

 Gordon Joseloff, westport now.. was the equivalent of mayor of westport. Troubled by "citizen media". Westport has coverage of stories at the same level as you'll find in the paper, fortified by 37 page .pdfs and such. it has become the daily paper of the town. very vibrant local community. Advent of digital cameras is a boon. "Teardown of the day". Property transfers. Interesting: Westport Now shows up on Google, while the papers don't. Encoiurage journalists and retiring ones to get into this.

 Lisa; it's fun. Would people have to pay you to stop?

 Eve Sullivan, founder of parents forum, publisihingn handbook through CC. Interested in succession. Don't want to do this forever, though it is fun. Theme of community building. Social sector is where we are needed.

 Raines Cohen: Westberkley.com ... putting up public records requests, city database records in publishable form.

 Jason Calacanis, weblogs.inc, netscape... I don't think this is going to become a big biz. This brings everybody back to why people did this in the first place. The local ad money is not going to scale. This will be lots of little companies not getting too far as a business. Unless you just want to make a living.


Last update: Monday, August 07, 2006 at 10:02:45 AM Eastern. Number of updates: 17.