BitDepth 701 - October 13

Young journalists are planning a new online only newspaper, this is what I think they should be doing.
The local online newspaper

Web-only newspaper models. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (left) retains much of the structure and planning of its now defunct print edition while the Oswego County Today, created for the Internet, puts local advertising big and up-front on its pages.

The only real surprise is that it's taken this long. A group of young journalists, largely drawn from the generation that came into the business a decade ago, is hard at work planning a local online news publication. Let's call it the New Internet Newsroom for now, largely because I have an attachment to the acronym NIN.
People have been hired and I know some of the players, but wisely enough, nobody's talking yet and I don't blame them.

A new publication built for the web has the potential to be a disruptive and game changing entry in the local publishing and broadcasting industry and really, there's no other reason to do it.
How would these changes come? Fast and furious if the folks behind NIN leave behind the habits of print and embrace their new medium. 
First up would be breaking the news cycle. Traditional news publication and broadcast is driven by long accepted schedules.

The news is packaged and presented in a particular format depending on the medium and arrives at preset times during the day. The web honours no such cycles. There is no reason for a web-only publication to do anything other than verify, prepare and post its stories as fast as they come in.
A consistent stream of such content would fundamentally change the way that the audience for news and information would begin to consume breaking news and commentary during the course of the day and the week.

If these new patterns of information consumption become popular, traditional news media will have to begin thinking about how to play in what is likely to become a fundamentally changed marketplace for news and information.
The first audience for a new pattern of local news distribution would be the youthful segment of the population that isn't tuning into traditional media in any significant way.
That opens the door for the second lever of change, taking advantage of new receivers for Internet based news.

Push it to your pocket
If the young architects of NIN have chosen their content management system wisely, that is to say, on the basis of both robustness, speed and extensibility, then their next step should be pushing their content to the receivers that everyone has in their pocket or on their hip, delivering news briefs and clickable story links via text message to the thousands of smart phones deployed in the country that are starved for local content.
Even users with "dumb" phones would probably sign up to receive text messages alerting them to news updates from an aggressively updated online news publication. Teleios, the local company that has crafted some clever applications for SMS messaging, is probably slavering at this possibility right now.
Content would probably look quite different in what is really a different medium. Freed from the requirement of replicating an existing medium, NIN would be able to switch from the inverted news pyramid (key information in the first paragraph, tapering in importance on the way down) to a news diamond. 

The NIN diamond could tease mercilessly in its first paragraph on the home page or in text links, leading to the story, which would expand further into ancillary media (supporting sidebars and explanatory notes, audio, video clips and photo galleries), tapering off to links to related stories within the site and pertinent external links.
The web rewards targeted relevancy, so NIN would have no reason to carry anything but local reports and commentary, but their content will be gilded by the critical element of character.

Replicating traditional newsroom content and style would be pointless in a medium which engages on the basis of character and here, some of the names I've heard will flourish in an environment where the newshound benefits from being recast as a rock star.
If NIN plays by the rules of the virtual road, embracing comments, incorporating user generated content, maintaining a value added presence on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and encouraging conversation with its audience while delivering content that's driven by traditional journalistic ideals, then things will get very interesting over the next few months.
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