Bob Cauthorn and CityTools

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Bob Cauthorn speak twice. Both times, I learned stuff.

The first time was in 2002 or 2003 at USC and Cauthorn convinced me to think about online advertising from the small business owner perspective, which remains quite different from how most advertising sales managers think about advertising.

The second time was this past Saturday in Phoenix and Cauthorn had me looking at some industry trends in a different light — not pretty, but not without hope. What he shared has already become a part of my standard strategy presentation.

Robert Niles has an interesting Q&A with Bob. Most of it is about his new CityTools platform.

It’s an interesting concept, and I like the general thrust of creating new syndication channels, but even though he first demo’d it for me several months ago, I still don’t grok it. I think I’m still not sure it will get critical mass to be really useful, though his growing emphasis on looking outside the newspaper business for early adapters makes sense.

Bob is especially geeked out about the new multilingual aspect of CityTools. That could be a competitive advantage, but I’m still wondering if multilingual people really want to get news in all the languages they speak, especially if some of those translations are automatic (see corrective message from Bob Cauthorn below).

There’s no doubt Bob is smarter than me, so whatever I’m missing about this must be my own fault. It certainly doesn’t help that I speak only one language. I certainly want to keep an eye on his experiment and see if it really does lead to something.

UPDATE:Â Bob sends along this correction … I apologize for the false assumption:

… just to be clear, stories are posted in their native languages as written by humans (often media sources in the case of shared news– think multilingual digg).

We DO use machine translation for some one word prompts while prototyping, but the we go back and have humans refine the prompts too. NO stories are machine translated. And because we go back over the prompts eventually everything is human translated.

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