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July 6, 2010 / Rick Martin

Maybe it’s not a broken model, but a failed execution

Back at Tokyo Barcamp 2010, ‘Bicycle Mark’ (CitizenReporter.org) started a discussion on new models for news. A month and a half later, I’ve gathered a few thoughts to contribute.

Yeah, I’m quick like that…

The discussion assumed that the current model for news is broken, which may be true. But I’ve been thinking of late – especially in terms of the English language news/media scene – that perhaps the problem lies in poor execution.

Below are a few things that I think can be easily improved on local news websites. This stuff is not that hard to do, but astoundingly most websites aren’t doing it despite the tough economic climate. Why? I’d speculate (as my friend Chris Amico has already) that the problem is largely a lack of tech-competent journalists who know what’s possible on the web. Not enough silo-busters.

So without further ado:

Repurpose old news: The blog-ish nature of websites these days tends to bury old news into oblivion. If you’re a news/media organization, you pay a writer to dish out some content only to hide it under the content you pay for tomorrow. Making an effort to collect metadata with articles is key to repurposing news well into the future. Tagging and categories are obvious solutions, but geodata, user ratings, and author pages are others that are not being employed by most.

More than just text: The rest of the world seems to accept that video is an alternative method of telling stories, but yet few media organizations in Japan have a strong video presence. Or even photos, for that matter. Tokyo.JapanTimes is a photo platform to be applauded, though some structured method of sorting through the content would not go astray. In addition to photos and video, there’s data visualization to be considered as well, but one step at a time.

Sell page-specific and geotargeted ads: I’m not very familiar with how ads are sold on most sites in Japan, but I guess that many are sold site-wide. StackOverflow sells tag-specific ads. Gizmag (a website to which I contribute) does geotargeted advertising and seems to be doing well with it.

Evergreen content: There are some topics in Japan that seem to be permanent news fixtures that deserve a topic page with a fixed URL. The content can be dynamic, but throw in some decent copy summarizing the issue and then suck in the most recent posts on that issue, related pictures and video, and even the latest Tweets. Example topics worthy of their own topic hub: Okinawa Air Base controversy, Sino-Japan relations, Naoto Kan, sumo scandals.

For geospecific content with a long shelf-life, map it: Generally speaking, content written about local landmarks, businesses or restaurants isn’t going to change much over time. A restaurant review will be just as interesting a year from now, so why let it get buried under new content? Put all geospecific content like this on a single map and Bob’s your uncle.

Hit the local blind spots: I live in Machida, and when I google my neighborhood I find very little besides Wikipedia info. Where there’s a need, fill it.

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