06 May 2009

Compelling Community Content

A blueprint for community newspapers in today's media environment, offered by Steve Buttry of Gazette Communications in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is attracting a lot of attention.

The `C3' or `Complete Community Connection' plan, as summarized by Nieman Journalism Lab (and available in full from Scribd), is an implementation of ideas that Buttry developed while working on the Newspaper Next project at the American Press Institute.

Although it is a family-owned paper, the Gazette is otherwise very comparable to UK regional newspapers such as the Lancashire Evening Post or other Johnston Press dailies.

Among the areas around which Buttry suggests compelling community content can be created are:

* Driving: Features such as gas price mapping, traffic text alerts, databases on bridge inspections, parking offenders, gas pump inspections and a pothole map `can help drivers and car owners regularly over time.'

* Home: `Answerbases' can be created on such topics as property taxes, sales transactions, mortgage foreclosures, delinquencies and ratings of contractors.

* Conversation: Buttry urges newspapers to immerse themselves in social networking: incorporating blogs and Facebook Connect, developing discussion leaders to turn commenting into conversation, and offering rewards for high-value contributors.

* Calendar: A great calendar ('what's on') system is central to the idea of facilitating transactions such as reservations and ticket sales, he says.

* Local Knowledge: In Buttry’s vision, this entails a `place where people of our communities and perhaps across Iowa turn for answers to their questions about this state and its communities: databases, community resources, services, history, unique aspects of local life (attractions, institutions and events) and a user-generated encyclopedia of local knowledge.'

* Personal content opportunities: These include expanded user-contributed content areas for births, milestones, school, graduations, college life, military service, weddings, parenthood, divorce, jobs, health, pets, food, interests, retirement and other stages of life.

Buttry's blog contains the complete blueprint in a series of posts. It's well worth a read.

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