Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
- Bob Netherton on Why I’m rooting for Vance Albitz
- seagazer101 on ‘Lede’ vs. ‘Lead’
- Pamela Lagahid on IFRA launches second vertical search engine for media
- kapiyo on My new Nikon F4
- bradleyplunk on Chris Tolles brings some stats to the anonymous vs. registration debate
TagsAdvertising Audience Growth blogging blogs Books Business comments Community disruption ethics film Gadgets GateHouse Media history Home Towns Innovation Journalism local news Media Movies MP3 of the Day Music news news business newspapers Paid Content participation Patch Personal Appearances photography point-and-shoot publish2 Reinventing Journalism reporting Site Design Society Sports Strategy Tech topix Video Web-First Publishing web2.0 web navigation Writing
Daily Archives: March 21, 2007
Can Hyper-Local Work?
Chris DeVore, COO, Judy’s Book; Mary Lou Fulton, VP, audience development, The Bakersfield Californian; John Geraci, co-creator, Outside.In; Ryan Massie, senior project manager, Ask.com; Ian White, CEO, Urban Mapping
First question is, “how are you measuring success?”Â Geraci said that since they’re aggregating a network of placeblogging content, one reader counts as success.
Fulton:Â Local has to be about more than geography. Local is more complex. You shouldn’t define the future by old categories lifted from outdated directories or classifieds. Instead, look at how people are tagging their own content.
People are different on what sites they’re on.Â The soccer mom on one of our sites is going to review a restaurant very differently than a user on Bakotopia.
“Ratings and recommendations are much more powerful when you’re aligned with your community.”
DeVore: To force people into a geolocation doesn’t really match the way people live their lives and how they consume information and shop.
The original idea behind Judy’s Book: If we can get people to create local content about local businesses, we thought businesses would see that we had their customers talking to each other that they would like that. We grossly under estimated the inertia and the value of feet on street, that merchants would just roll over and use self service on a site they’ve never heard of. HindsightÂ is 20/20 and “duh, of course they won’t.”
New model: Aggregating offers. Answering the question: “What’s on sale near me?”
“Nobody cares about us, nobody cares about our brand.Â We are in the landing page business.Â Google is the front door to our business.Â We would love for people to fall in love with our brand and come to our site, but we’re a small business with limited resources and our best chance of success is to get traffic to our site though Google.”
Geraci: Content providers should want their information everywhere in the ecosystem. The way YouTube and del.iso.us and FlickrÂ works is not by taking the information and lcoking it down and saying, you have to come to my site to create the content and then come back to view it. They are giving users the tools to create content and share it and play with it however they want.
“Some of the criticism we got was that pot holes aren’t very interesting, but if the pot holes are in your community, they are very interesting.”
Fulton: “We’ve talked about the importance of search for distribution, but people are very important means of distribution. ”
Massie: The top query on ask.com and Ask Local is “things to do” â€¦ it’s not about businesses or events, it’s “things to do.” Continue reading
Notes from keynote by Peter Horan, president, IAC Media and Advertising, Inc.
In the late 1990s, there was a lot of funding of locally focused sites, such as City Search and Sidewalk. There were projections for big revenue, but “to date, we haven’t gotten as much traction in local as we thought.â€?
To date, the local model has been to be brand-driven media. What’s happened over the past five years, especially with search, is the notion of intention-driven media.Â Today, people go to search, get a list of links and I’m on a mission. “I’m not in a casual surfing mode. I’m not browsing. I’m on missle lock trying to get something done. When I’m in that mode, I’m impatient and I want to be in control.
“We live and die in a five second window. A customer is sitting there waiting for the page to load with a finger on the back button.”
Successful web sites create value by organizing content and services. They give users a smooth click stream from the question to the answer.Â Brand aids in the process, but it doesn’t drive the process.
Web usage isn’t about reading. It’s about doing. The litmus test for local is usefulness.
Consumers want useful, interesting, actionable and accessible.Â Merchants want easy, predictable, affordable and comfortable.
A bad assumption that has driven local site business models is that people will change their behavior, that a merchant who has been buying yellow page ads for years, will suddenly change his advertising behavior just because its offered.Â “That’s scary to a small business.Â They’re risk averse. It’s not money coming out of the boss’s wallet. It’s their money.”
The three cornerstones of success:
- Relevance: Readers are on a mission looking for a complete solution that help them get the job done.
- Resonance: Readers shop for authorites who see the world the way they do â€¦ do these people look like me, act like me, like the places I like?
- Actionable: Readers want to act on information quickly.
A lot of business models today are predicated on the idea that everybody is going to create their own ads. That’s not going to happen.Â Newspapers and yellow pages have an advantage because of their large advertising forces.
Three things necessary for success:
- First, scale. You need enough traffic to pool readers around local merchants;
- Second, you’ve got to own something, either content or services, that bring people to your site;
- Third, you need an interesting product that readers will want to use.
Well, yes. It’s difficult to make any content model work on the web, and it’s even tougher for a start-up business just because starting any business is hard and fraught with multiple points of potential failure.
The Jon Fine column is primarily about the woes of Backfence, but at least he covers some hints about what works.
It’s easier for sites driven by a talented, semi-obsessed writer or two, likebaristanett, to gain traction: Readers return for a stylish voice or a dependable hit of news.
Gannettt, is now enabling anrampingng up local participation on its sites. It’s easier for a local daily to promote these efforts than a new face with a new name.
Speaker: Ralph Kunz, vp of multimedia experience, Nokia
The highlight of Kunzâ€™s presentation was a demonstration of his map-search enabled phone. The phone is GPS and navigation enabled, allowing users to pin-point their location, find nearby locations and get navigation directions.
“We believe there is an opportunity to change the rules of the game,” Kunz said.
Initially, the application will be available on high-end Nokia phones, but next year Nokia will start releasing low and mid-range phones with the mapping system.
In a year, Nokia expects to have 180 million devices in market.
Kunz’s talk in a large part a pitch to yellow page providers to partner with Nokia to supply content and advertising to the application.
Nokiaâ€™s maps will feature sponsored icons and advertising information related to location-based businesses and services.Â Nokia also expects users to generate location-specific content, such as restaurant reviews and feedback.
In 2007, there will be 3 billion mobile devices in the world. Just a year ago, industry experts predicted the 3 billion mark wouldnâ€™tÂ be surpassed until 2010.Â With price reductions, weâ€™re seeing bigger market penetration.
And more people are expecting their phones to be more than phones. For example, sales of digital cameras peaked in 2006.Â As digital camera phones improve, people are replacing separate cameras with the phones.
Kunz said the same thing is starting to happen with MP3 players.
In a survey of Nokia S60 yeas, 51 percent said they want map-based search.
Nokia’s new app is pre-installed on phones and gives users the ability to rapidly find information and locations.
Nokia is seeing 26 percent month-over-month growth in search queries, and 65 percent of users click on map links from search results.
Most maps applications today sit on a server and stream map panels to browsers and mobile devices. With the Nokia device, the maps and information will be stored on the client devices, so that users can access map information even when they are not connected to the network.
“We are interesting in providing a platform for content partners.”
“Branded content is important to get people lured in.” Continue reading