News Leadership 3.0

March 29, 2010

The Bee aggregates local online news sources with a new network, Sacramento Connect

With a little help from training at Knight Digital Media Center, The Sacramento Bee launches a lively network of sites and blogs that connects its users to other news sources and to each other

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, few established news organizations were thinking about befriending local news start ups and many probably wished they’d go away.

My own January 2009 post encouraging news organizations to make friends with local start ups and link to their content got lost the a fierce debate about whether aggregators were driving traffic to established sites or taking it away.

So today it’s exciting to see The Sacramento Bee in California launch Sacramento Connect, “a network of high-quality news providers and bloggers in the Sacramento region.”

“From my view, Sacramento Connect is a contemporary way to carry out some familiar aims of a newspaper: Pointing readers to interesting and useful information and connecting people to community life,” Bee Editor Melanie Sill said in a note to readers Sunday.

Sacramento Connect (@saconnect on Twitter) has a friendly feel and it is loaded with social features. Users can tailor the content they see according to their interests and they can easily share stories with others via e-mail or a social network site. More on site features. The network is starting with about a dozen partners and expects to grow, reports Tom Negrete, Bee managing editor for online.

I take some pride in playing a small role in Sacramento Connect. I designed and led KDMC’s 2009 class on Social Media Strategy for News Organizations that brought editors including Sill together with social media experts including Paul Gillin and JD Lasica. The Sacramento network was The Bee’s class project. Teams from 13 newspaper organizations participated in a a 10-week online class on Social Media Strategy for News Organizations, planned a social media project with a coach supplied by the center, and then convened with other editors in Los Angeles to hone and present those plans.

Early in the class, I made a point of assigning readings articles about the value of aggregation and linking. Susan Mernit joined the faculty and coached Sacramento on their project. (Report on the class. My blog posts from class. Read posts earliest first if you want to get a sense of the progression of the class.)

Another class participant, The Wichita Eagle, is getting ready to launch a local network as well. Sacramento and Wichita are not alone. Fueled by money from the Knight Foundation, several major news organizations, including The Miami Herald and The Charlotte Observer (another participant in the ‘09 class) are partnering with local sites in a project sponsored by J-Lab.

Some new partnerships go beyond linking. The Seattle Times is collaborating with hyper local partners to cover the news and produce enterprise reporting. Several of the projects envision sharing advertising.

ACTION STEPS

- If your organization wants to get started on a project like this, here’s a screencast that Paul Gillin put together on some ways to find local sites and blogs in your area.

- Also check out Placeblogger and J-Lab’s map and database. Additionally, I am creating a shorter list that screens for and categorizes the more promising sites.

- Try some of our other KDMC learning exercises about social media.

Comments

really neat to see this innovation from media organizations.

in all of your studies on the subject, do you have any conclusions on what product features best facilitate a community-driven news site?

i’d be curious to discuss. my company, grogger, provides grogs or “group blogs” that are built to allow many, many users contribute to a blog. our major focus is around attracting content and then organizing / filtering it. while indeed the idea is around “crowdsourced content” we consider the key to be the community management performed by the editorial team. our focus is around providing the tools for them to be successful.

again, i’d be eager to get your thoughts on features as well as your feedback on what we’re doing.


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in Sacramento Connect. I designed and led KDMC’s 2009 class on Social Media Strategy for News Organizations that brought editors including Sill together with social media
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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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