HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The newsonomics of auctioning off Digital First’s newspapers (and California schemin’)
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 24, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

Aggregation and tips from neighbors drive Philly.com’s new community news site

The prospect of better reaching readers — and advertisers — in a community encourage the Philadelphia Media Network to experiment with curation and open story budgets.

On its face, Neighbors Main Line looks like a lot of hyperlocal sites. Produced by the Philadelphia Media Network — home to The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com — it covers the Main Line, the well-off area west of town. It features stories from PMN properties (most from two part-time reporters) along with a mix of aggregated Main Line-related content from sites national and local. “It says, ‘I know I can get everything on Philly.com and I don’t have to go to three different sites,'” said Daniel Victor, who oversaw development of the site.

But a strip at the top of Neighbors Main Line is another example of the push toward transparency — see The Guardian opening up its news budgets, or The Register Citizen Open Newsroom Project. The strip every day alerts readers to “What We’re Working On,” three brief descriptions of what the reporters are working along with contact information. Victor said it made sense as a practical way of fixing a common problem, the need for new sources and ineffective methods of letting readers contribute. “A problem we have in reporting is by the time readers realize they can contribute to a story it’s already too late to contribute,” he said.

Of course, newspapers have long asked for reader input before stories are published, even pre-web, but the Philly strip institutionalizes the request for reader knowledge. Asking readers to contribute to reporting also seems to be a kind of “two birds” proposition; by asking the audience to help on stories, reporters gain more sources and the readers get a sense of involvement in the paper. In that way the payoff for “What We’re Working On,” Victor says, comes from the tips as well as planting the idea of contributing in a reader’s head. (Victor recently announced he’s leaving Philly to become the new social media editor for ProPublica.)

Victor said a willingness to open your reporting to the public is only one part of the equation. The other is taking the right approach and crafting the right message to the audience. “I think the key is understanding the motivation with why they share information,” he said. “Very rarely it’s because they like the reporter.”

While there was some initial unease about the site’s approach to aggregation and openness, Victor said it fit in well with the Philadelphia Media Network’s efforts to reorient itself as digital company (a good example being its ambitious tablet plans). And it’s clear the structure of the Neighbors site offers a kind of efficiency — through aggregation and minimal staff — that is appealing to news managers. The Main Line site may be a bit of a test case for Philly.com, Victor said. If the site can register a decent amount of engagement, page views and attract advertisers, it would make sense to duplicate it in other areas. Victor said this kind of model would make sense, not just because of the value to newsrooms, but also the information value to the audiences. “The big shift we have to make is instead of thinking of readers sharing information with us, it’s sharing information with each other,” Victor said.

POSTED     Oct. 24, 2011, 12:30 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The newsonomics of auctioning off Digital First’s newspapers (and California schemin’)
More than 200 newspapers are up for sale — as one group, in clusters, or one by one. Where they go could have a big impact on how the industry will look in the coming years.
Could a Bay Area news nonprofit take over some of its biggest newspapers?
There are plenty of reasons for it not to happen. But news nonprofits could end up being vehicles for civic-minded locals to take over dailies as they continue to drop in value.
Through The Wire: What happened with The Atlantic’s experiment in aggregation?
The Atlantic invested years and money into figuring out what they wanted The Wire to be. Now, after relaunching and promising reinvestment, the site is being brought back under the wing of its parent.
What to read next
751
tweets
Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
677Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?
A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism.
596Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Gotham Gazette
West Seattle Blog
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Kickstarter
Public Radio International
Next Door Media
Examiner.com
The Daily Telegraph
CNN
Houston Chronicle
McClatchy
FactCheck.org