Seth Godin Says “Time to Start a Newspaper”. He’s Right!

I’m usually not a big fan of Seth Godin’s visions and ideas but in a blog post published yesterday, he stumbles upon a BIG idea. “Time to start a newspaper” he writes in the title of his post. You can stop reading there, the rest of the post is less interesting (he talks about idle real estate agents (?!?) having time to start a paper and he suggests a way to execute the idea), but the title contains a brilliant insight.

Yes, it is the right time to start a newspaper.

Yes. Even if we read dramatic newspaper industry news every week (like Hearst Corp putting the Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale “saying that if it can’t find a buyer in the next 60 days, the paper will close or continue to exist only on the Internet.”)

Think about it. Why are newspapers struggling? Is it because the need for local information is going away? Au contraire, I would say the need for local information is higher today. Look at initiatives like Huffington Post (who recently launched a Chicago version of their site) or Outside.in (who aggregates local blog posts) or Silobreaker (an aggregator of online information I covered here) or even unsung individual placebloggers throughout the world! Many people have started to re-think the newspaper industry.

Now, if you work in the newspaper industry today, you might think the sky is falling but once-in-a-lifetime moments like the one we’re going through are usually the best times to change the system. As I wrote last August, “I’m not convinced that most traditional media organizations will just rollover and die. I still see tremendous (but underutilized) assets in most traditional media firms.” I still believe it but your call to action is:

Yes, it is the right time to re-invent the newspaper.

If you could re-invent the newspaper today, what would you do differently?

The Local Wide Web

A couple of somewhat conflicting articles today.  I love those!

On one hand, Amy Gahran over at Poynter.org challenges the Knight Foundation for their “strong focus on geographically defined local communities” in the context of a Silicon Valley community forum event.  She says: “It seems to me that with the way the media landscape has been evolving, geographically defined local communities are becoming steadily less crucial from an information perspective.”

On the other hand, in an article called “The web’s future is a ‘village'”, the BBC reports on a study from HP Labs that talks about what happens “when information becomes more available, cheap and valueless”

“Mr Huberman said the overwhelming amount of information online was also starting to affect relationships.  “With Facebook many people boast of having 100, 200 friends but in reality only keep up or track a very few of them.” On this basis Mr Huberman concludes that we are returning to a time where we maintain close contact with a small number of people – enough people to fill a village.  “Things are starting to become intimate again,” he said. “We went through this explosion, this illusion that the world is at my fingertips and I can reach anyone and everybody. But at the end of the day we notice that we actually interact with very few.”

What it means: when faced with information overload, we go back to known quantity.  That’s one of the reasons why I believe local represents the future of the Web. Most of us live our offline life locally (we say in the directory industry everything happens within 50 miles of our home or office). With more and more local merchants going online and more and more hyperlocal initatives like Metroblogging, Outside.in, Citysquares and newcomers like Neighborsville or Yipit, we’ll be able to drill down on the local information that matters to us.  I’ll definitely welcome this new Local Wide Web (LWW?)…

Update: Howard Owens chimes in on the Pointer.org article with a great analysis.

SXSW: Steven Johnson Unveils Outside.in Newsfeed

Yesterday afternoon at SXSW08, Steven Johnson, Outside.in‘s CEO, was interviewing the brilliant Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. I’ll come back to Jenkins’ insights in a later blog post.

Johnson, while talking about hyperlocal, collective intelligence and communities, unveiled a screenshot of a soon-to-be released feature of Outside.in called “On My Radar”. According to the sneak peek page, “On My Radar lets you zoom down and see all the current buzz on the block you’re standing on, while simultaneously keeping tabs on places around the country that interest you.” It uses Yahoo’s FireEagle location technology.

outside.in · Radar

(see the bigger image here)

What it means: On My Radar is very similar to the Facebook newsfeed, one of most interesting features of the popular social network site. I like the fact that they’ve segmented the geographical elements from the very hyperlocal (within 500 feet of you) to the city-level (Brooklyn). I see two challenges to this idea: depth of content and activity. Without these two, a local newsfeed is less relevant. But if they can mine enough information (and frequent updates) from local bloggers and Outside.in users, this might be a very interesting way to discover hyperlocal news.

Citysearch buys InsiderPages for an Undisclosed Price

VentureBeat has the news:

Citysearch, the division of IAC focuses on local reviews of restaurants and other services, has acquired the struggling local review start-up, Insider Pages.

The purchase (amount undisclosed) comes at a time of increasing competition in the race to deliver a compelling local search services. Citysearch’s parent, IAC, has already bolstered its local search offerings, namely with Ask City, a property that packages everything from local search to local maps, reviews, and ticket services.

However, more entrants have arrived to nip traffic away from Citysearch, an early player that has seen its traffic stagnate in recent months. There’s Yelp, Judysbook and Backfence, for starters. Earlier today, we mentioned new competitor Outside.in, another company going after the local community news and events area. (…)

Insider Pages has about 600,000 user reviews, and they’ll be integrated into the Citysearch’s offering, she said. It has 2.5 million monthly unique readers, she said, based on Comscore and internal tracking numbers.

She would not say whether the purchase price was more than $10 million invested in the company by Sequoia Capital, Softbank and Idealab. She said there were multiple bidders, but that Insider Pages preferred Citysearch because it is complementary. Insider Pages is popular among suburban parents and homeowners, she said, giving it strength in the home, garden, health and plumber review areas. Citysearch is stronger in bars, arts and entertainment. Citysearch will absorb Insider Page employees in its San Francisco office.

Rev2 says it was sold for “for an estimated sum of $13 million.”

What it means: I’m surprised it was not acquired by a directory company as it would have been a great jumpstart for any user review strategy (becoming more and more important in any local search site). From the article above, it sounds like the acquisition will be complimentary based on different content & users. I know the Citysearch demographics well (Yellow Pages Group used to be the Citysearch licensee in Canada) but I don’t know enough about InsiderPages’ users to really comment on the complementarity.

Citysearch buys InsiderPages for an Undisclosed Price

VentureBeat has the news:

Citysearch, the division of IAC focuses on local reviews of restaurants and other services, has acquired the struggling local review start-up, Insider Pages.

The purchase (amount undisclosed) comes at a time of increasing competition in the race to deliver a compelling local search services. Citysearch’s parent, IAC, has already bolstered its local search offerings, namely with Ask City, a property that packages everything from local search to local maps, reviews, and ticket services.

However, more entrants have arrived to nip traffic away from Citysearch, an early player that has seen its traffic stagnate in recent months. There’s Yelp, Judysbook and Backfence, for starters. Earlier today, we mentioned new competitor Outside.in, another company going after the local community news and events area. (…)

Insider Pages has about 600,000 user reviews, and they’ll be integrated into the Citysearch’s offering, she said. It has 2.5 million monthly unique readers, she said, based on Comscore and internal tracking numbers.

She would not say whether the purchase price was more than $10 million invested in the company by Sequoia Capital, Softbank and Idealab. She said there were multiple bidders, but that Insider Pages preferred Citysearch because it is complementary. Insider Pages is popular among suburban parents and homeowners, she said, giving it strength in the home, garden, health and plumber review areas. Citysearch is stronger in bars, arts and entertainment. Citysearch will absorb Insider Page employees in its San Francisco office.

Rev2 says it was sold for “for an estimated sum of $13 million.”

What it means: I’m surprised it was not acquired by a directory company as it would have been a great jumpstart for any user review strategy (becoming more and more important in any local search site). From the article above, it sounds like the acquisition will be complimentary based on different content & users. I know the Citysearch demographics well (Yellow Pages Group used to be the Citysearch licensee in Canada) but I don’t know enough about InsiderPages’ users to really comment on the complementarity.