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#citylocal: Hyperlocal ad sales and the ‘age of participation’

Community participation is key to selling ads around local and hyperlocal content, Rick Waghorn told the audience at today’s Sustaining Local Journalism conference.

Waghorn, who founded local ad sales platform Addiply, cited the example of Howard Owens, publisher of New York hyperlocal site the Batavian.

Owens, he said, was a “hyperlocal superman” for turning a profit from ads on his site. The reason for Owens’ success? P2P. That’s “person-to-person”. Waghorn praised Owen for participating in the community that he covers, knowing the people, and knocking on doors to get ads.

It’s P2P that will make hyperlocal ad sales profitable, said Waghorn, not algorithms.

Borrowing a term from Emily Bell, he said that we are in “the age of participation”.

Editorial is participative and local, why shouldn’t advertising be?

But Owens’ is a rare case, said Waghorn, stressing that hyperlocal publishers in the UK need to get more comfortable with participating in the community for ad sales.

We can’t all be Howard Owens. You look around the hyperlocal scene in the UK and the art of selling is lost on most people. Is is a different, different trade craft to finding a story.

It strikes me as odd that most people would be more comfortable doing a death knock than going into a local pizza parlour and asking for a 10 quid ad. Why? That seems odd to me. I know what I’d rather do.

Waghorn’s said his own ad platform, Addiply, could help publishers reach out to their communities to make ad sales.

It’s a bottom-up ad solution that, in our tiny, tiny way goes into battle with the adsenses and all the big betworks.

And bottom up solutions are what works, he said, “the world is turning upside down”. Citing Howard Owens again, Waghorn claimed that the door-to-door salesman is the missing link for hyperlocal ad sales. He contrased Owens’ approach with that of the big hyperlocal networks like AOL’s Patch.

I’m not Patch, descending down to you from on high, I am the one knocking on your door. Knocking on your door seven or eight times before you give me an ad.

Waghorn’s message? Journalists will knock on doors to ask about deaths, and will knock on doors looking for stories, and if they want to make hyperlocal pay they will have to start thinking about ad sales the same way.

That message was echoed by Will Perrin of Talk About Local, who called the Guardian’s sales approach to advertising on its recently-closed Guardian local sites “very odd”.

If you want to sell ads around local content you have to have a team there on the ground.

Tweets tagged with the #citylocal hashtag can be seen in this Chirpstory.

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Digital Journalist: There is no such thing as a citizen journalist

December 7th, 2009 | 5 Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Editors' pick

A Digital Journalist editorial argues that citizen journalism should be abolished:

There are many people who think they can replace professional visual journalists. Citizen journalist is a misnomer. There is no such thing. There are citizens and there are journalists. Everybody can be one of the former, but to be called a journalist means that you are a professional. Either you have been schooled in journalism, or you have ‘paid your dues,’ rising slowly through the ranks.

But it’s not clear whose argument the editorial is countering. Howard Owens, publisher of the Batvian, responds sharply in the comments, a reply which is worth an Editors’ Pick in its own right:

[Y]ou state, “There are many people who think they can replace professional visual journalists.” Yet you provide not one verified quote to substantiate the claim, nor, more importantly one link to support this statement. I challenge you to prove its true, rather than a bald face unsubstantiated assertion – the kind of sloppy reporting you claim to abhor.

Owens also provides some interesting details on ‘citizen journalist’ equivalents of the past.

Full post at this link…

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Howard Owens: Don’t let aggregators replace your newspaper’s homepage

March 2nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Few users click on homepage links on a newspaper website – the majority come for the headlines and then leave, suggests Howard Owens.

“That’s one reason newspaper.coms are foolish to let aggregation sites such as Topix display all of their headlines and leads,” he adds.

“Topix is in the business of creating a substitute home page for your community news.”

Design your site instead to meet your readers’ ‘intention-driven mindset’ whatever that may be, he writes.

Full post at this link…

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Innovations in Journalism – MediaGeeks

July 18th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Search

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. So how about a search engine for the media? Welcome Mediageeks.org.

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
I’m Howard Owens, I’ve been doing online media for 13 years and am a bit of a geek about it.

When I first started thinking about launching a site like [the journalism social network] WiredJournalists.com, I registered the domain MediaGeeks.org. I wanted to create a social network for media geeks just like me.

When Ryan Sholin and Zac Echola and I started talking about the concept that became WiredJournalists.com, they weren’t so sold on “media geeks,” so I had this domain sitting around … and I had been wanting to play with building niche/vertical search engines with Google. I launched my first vertical search engine for RVClub.com in 1998 (with the help of now defunct WaveShift), so this is a concept of long-standing interest.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?

Because it allows you to have a search filtered to just media/journalistic topics. Let’s say you’re curious about what media people say about coverage of Paris Hilton … well, a general Google search for ‘Paris Hilton and media’ won’t be fruitful, because of the gazzillion of non-media hits.This search filters out all the non-media sites, so you can get right to the heart of what media publications and media bloggers might be saying about PH and coverage of her.

That’s just an example, but it should point the way to how you can leverage a more filtered search of just media-related sites.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?

It probably won’t get any more attention, except for adding more media sites as they came along. Google has upgraded the API for the Business Edition of its search product, but not the free version. I’m not sure I’ll have time to do any fancy programming to improve the search engine should those upgrades become available to the free version.

4) Why are you doing this?

Because I thought it would be useful to me (and it has been, though not as useful a I had hoped because even Google search doesn’t always work as well as it should), so I hoped it would be useful to others. Not many people use it, though – I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a bad idea, or a lack of publicity.

I suppose you could argue in a networked world, if it were a good idea, it would have caught on by now. But it’s free to me, essentially, so right now I see no reason to take it down. Maybe it will catch on yet.

5) What does it cost to use it?
It’s free.

6) How will you make it pay?
I don’t need to make it pay, but I would love it if people started using it and some of those Google ads got clicked on once in a while (all out of legitimate interest in the advertiser’s message, of course), and I got to make a little extra money each month. That would be great, but not required.

There is an aspect, too, of giving back to the community, which isn’t something you hear online journalists talk about much these days, but used to be a big concept of being a Netizen a decade ago or so. So, even while the site hasn’t caught on, it is at some level an attempt to give back for all the goodness I get from the web and the online media community.

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Social Media Journalist: ‘social search seems like a solution in search of a problem’ Howard Owens, Gatehouse Media, US

Journalism.co.uk talks to journalists across the globe about social media and how they see it changing their industry.

More »

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Howard Owens offers guide (and prize) for ‘non-wired’ journos

January 3rd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism, Training

Howard Owens, director of digital publishing at US company Gatehouse Media, has laid down a personal gauntlet to ‘non-wired journalists’ to encourage them to be more active online.

Listing the full details on his personal blog, Owens is offering a $100 Amazon voucher (around £50) to the first journalist to complete his internet assault course. The currently unofficiated hack must, amongst other things satisfy the following criteria:

  • Get a small digital camera and start uploading photos and making videos
  • Join a social networking site
  • Learn to Twitter
  • Use social bookmarking
  • Set-up a blog

Financial incentives aside, Owen’s ten-step plan is straightforward and low-cost – a simple way to nudge even the most reluctant editorial staff into action.

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Outsourcing newspaper interaction – on Topix

November 28th, 2007 | 10 Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Online Journalism

Topix has just struck a deal to run the forums of MediaNews Group in the US, which owns 61 newspapers including the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.

If Topix’s claim is genuine (and I have no reason to doubt it) that it gets over 80,000 comments a day – three million people posting more than 18 million comments since it launched its forums little under two years ago – then there seems to be obvious and compelling reasons for the union.

Marry what Topix does best with the local audience/trust that MediaNews papers have and you’re on to a winner surely?

Topix boasts again: IndyStar.com and Sun-Sentinel.com have each surpassed one million forum posts since Topix started running them.

In interview yesterday with Journalism.co.uk Yoosk consulting editor Nick Ryan said that traditional media was failing to shift from the old top-down approach online because it’s not getting involved nearly enough in user-interaction.

So all good with this move? Not all, according to Howard Owens:

“Media News signing a deal to turn over commenting functions to Topix is just dumb beyond belief

“Ironically, Media News owns the Denver Post, which of late has been doing a fantastic job of trying to become the hub of community conversation, both through its main news site and its innovative neighbours site.

“Those efforts are completely incompatible, as I see it, with the Topix business model, which Chris Tolles is quite blunt about: “We’re aiming to be the number one local news site on the web …”

“There can be only one number one, and if it’s Topix, it ain’t your newspaper.com.”

Owens adds that local should be a vertical, in the way fashion and travel are, and that the local paper should ‘own’ that space, dominating it across all platforms in a way other major brands dominate verticals, rather than letting another company get the best out of the paper’s good relationship with its audience.

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