Newspapers have a tremendous opportunity to re-brand themselves as the center of the online community, connecting people to each other in every way possible.
But that window is so enormously small, I fear very few papers will take advantage. It’ll be a fatal blow, and we’ll be kicking ourselves that there weren’t more entrepreneurs inside the industry at this ripe time.
The newspaper site could be the home to all of the forums, the blogs, the social networking, the matchmaking, the businesses, the schools, and the community organization. Right now that’s all fragmented across the Web, and frankly a bit overwhelming for people who don’t constantly consume that kind of media.
Imagine if that were all concentrated in one hyper-local place? A place that has an already-strong brand name in place, a name that’s been a core part of the community since the 19th century?
Sounds pretty ideal to me. Giving people a voice has always been a fundamental mission of newspapers, and the letters page no longer cuts it.
But that role needs to be expanded to connecting people online, and right now a lot of other people are figuring that out much quicker. Someone in Harrisburg could:
- Read local bloggers, discover local Twitter users or use the forums at blogHarrisburg
- Find events at Spotobe
- Find other college students at Facebook or MySpace
- Try to determine which of the billion dating sites has lured the most potential dates
And Harrisburg area college students might soon have their own local network, if this entry at Ideablob gains any momentum.
All of this is happening outside of the newspaper site. Some of it is happening at newspaper sites, too, but the local entrepreneurs have figured out better ways to do it.
It all could have been centered at the newspaper site if the newspaper site thought of it first. Time to think of something first…and I’ll offer some of my ideas in a post soon.