A new model for funding local journalism

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: Tyler Dukes | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

All right. I’ve complained enough about a lack of ingenuity on the part of news executives.

Now it’s time to do something about it.

I just submitted an application for the Knight News Challenge, a grant program that awards start-up money to organizations with new ideas on community journalism.

I’ve posted that application below. This is an open application period, which means anyone can view and comment on the idea, and I can make changes based on those comments until Oct. 15. Feel free to comment here or on our application’s page on the Knight Web site. I would sincerely appreciate any feedback.

Project title (100 characters)

PublickHouse Media

Describe your project (1,800 characters)

PublickHouse Media pairs a new platform of online advertising with a model of community journalism that fills gaps in the existing news ecosystem. The result is a sustainable model based on selling and trading info about the community, its members and its businesses.

The core belief is that quality community news should be free and that the audience’s time and loyalty are valuable.

Basic content would require no registration or payment. Registered users, however, get access to advanced features, like mobile apps and interactive options. In exchange for their demographic data, users receive loyalty cards to use at advertising businesses that grant them exclusive promotions.

For local businesses, the product is twofold. They get regular reports on the aggregate demographic data of customers using the loyalty card on an in-store scanning system. In addition, traditional display ads on the site are targeted to each user based on their buying activity.

The result is a link between online ads and the real-world behavior of each user.

Advertising will support multimedia storytelling about the community. With the same inexpensive tools citizen journalists use to share information, Pub reporters will produce stories other media outlets aren’t covering.

That means no breaking news. No stories on house fires or wrecks. No wire reports. When other reporters run in one direction, we will walk the other way.

The Pub will feature exclusive, extremely localized stories about issues impacting the area, told in a way that emphasizes how readers will be affected.

The method for obtaining these stories is simple – boots-on-the-ground reporting. The Pub’s journalists will live, work and play in this community and will be as committed to its welfare as their readers.

How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities? (750 characters)

The enterprise stories produced by the Pub will be limited to a predefined community and will combine traditional reporting with the process-oriented techniques of bloggers and citizen journalists. Our advertising model will support this hyperlocal coverage in a time when larger organizations are pulling back.

There’s no longer any reason to waste resources on duplicating the content of other news organizations. Social media has replaced the expensive news echo chamber – and it has done it for free.

By fully integrating existing social media into our registration system, users will be able to link the profiles they already use every day with our content, allowing the news to find the community efficiently.

How is your idea innovative, new or different from what already exists? (750 characters)

PublickHouse Media’s advertising platform is innovative because it establishes a real-life connection between the community and its businesses.

By providing loyalty cards to users and card readers to businesses, PublickHouse will create a physical link to our targeted advertising that evolves over time.

This loyalty card concept has been proven effective by countless corporations. Now, we’re giving small business owners right down the street the same kind of valuable aggregated demographic data. They pay for information that can grow their businesses, and at the same time, they’re funding quality journalism that resonates with their neighbors and customers.

What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project? (1,600 characters)

This new model would require the creation of a lean, aggressive community journalism outfit with few resources and a lot of hurdles to overcome.

Both partners in this endeavor have had extensive experience with similar obstacles at the daily student newspaper of N.C. State University.

M. Tyler Dukes was editor-in-chief of the publication, controlling a budget of $500,000 completely supported by advertising. He crafted the newspaper’s vision and was responsible for several long-term multimedia initiatives.

Dukes also completed a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship at The Wall Street Journal in the Summer of 2007. For more than a year, he has worked as a Web producer for News 14 Carolina, a local 24-hour news station in North Carolina. During that time, he led the station’s embrace of social media.

For two and a half years, Dukes studied electrical and computer engineering before eventually receiving his B.S. in science, technology and society from N.C. State, which does not have a journalism program.

As the systems administrator for NCSU Student Media, Fred Eaker has worked since August 2007 to maintain the computing infrastructure for six Web sites, two newspapers, a radio station and an advertising department. During that time, he has put his eight years as an information systems analyst to work for student journalists, improving the way they deliver information to their community.

Since receiving a B.S. in information systems in 2001, Eaker has acquired extensive experience in IT implementation, Web development as well as database design.

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