I have completed the initial phase of my plan to build local news sites for the inner city suburbs of Fitzroy and North Fitzroy, Carlton and North Carlton, Brunswick and East Brunswick and Collingwood and Abbotsford.

I’m in the process of contacting over 100 Melbourne based online content creators and publishers and asking them to add suburb categories, tags or labels to their posts that are about events or experiences in those suburbs. About a quarter of the sites I am contacting already had, or have recently added, suburb metadata.

Almost everyone who has responded has been keen to contribute. I have only received a single refusal, which was from a blogger whose name I will not mention. He wrote:

the name “indolent dandy” seems somewhat odd. first thought is it is spam, second, gay… so it seems strange. Probably a nice move intellectually or such but nup…

This project does not need homophobia. It’s about goodwill and community building. As I’ve explained, I’m using my own spare hosting space to host the sites, which can be moved to different servers later and be given their own domain names. Some people have no imagination…

How much content is out there?

So what does this body of content amount to? Remember, I’ve estimated it to be only a quarter of of the location based online content about Melbourne currently available.

Collingwood has a 4 year archive of almost 200 posts, with about 25 contributors. Brunswick has a 5 year archive of over 150 posts, with more than 20 contributors. Carlton has a 4 year archive of nearly 150 posts and over 20 contributors. Fitzroy is a monster site with a 5 year archive of over 350 posts and nearly 50 contributors.

Imagine how big these sites would be if they included the other three quarters of the location specific content about inner city Melbourne.

Fitzroy

I’ve been publishing my own site Fitzroyalty for nearly 3 years and am close to publishing 1000 posts, over 450 which are directly about Fitzroy. Most of these are not syndicated in the Fitzroy local news site, as I do not want to overwhelm it with my content. I want each news site to be the work of many contributors with a balance of contributions.

I publish posts at Fitzroyalty twice a day, so I’ve limited my contribution to the Fitzroy local news site to my Fitzroy events feed and my North Fitzroy feed, which means that I contribute about as much to the site as other contributors.

With a total of over 800 posts about Fitzroy published in the past 5 years, it is plausible to suggest that Fitzroy is the most blogged about suburb or location in Australia. But that is another topic to discuss another time.

How to contribute

All you need to do is add metadata to your existing and new posts. WordPress (.com and self hosted) users can use CATEGORIES or TAGS. Blogger (blogspot) users can use LABELS. For example, add a ‘Fitzroy’ category, tag or label to your Fitzroy café reviews, then send an email saying that you’ve added the metadata so we can format the RSS feed and add it to the site. Do it for every suburb, not just the ones that sites exist for now. Tagging your content will help Google index your site and will make it easier to build more suburb sites in the future.

Please note that the FeedWordPress plugin used to aggregate feeds in the WordPress powered sites has a known problem parsing some WordPress.com feeds. If you publish using a WordPress.com site, it may not be possible to syndicate your feed directly, but I have a workaround solution: I put WordPress.com feeds through a Yahoo Pipe, which recodes them into a format that FeedWordPress likes.

Sadly, Typepad and LiveJournal sites cannot easily produce category specific RSS feeds. If you use one of these platforms, dump it and get something better! Businesses as well as individuals are welcome to contribute: abandon your static website and publish content that can be syndicated via RSS feeds and ics calendar data.

The future

These are my plans for the immediate future:

  • continue to contact bloggers to ask them to tag their content
  • publish a site for Melbourne (the CBD, North, East, South, West and Docklands)
  • publish a site for Richmond
  • publish a site for Clifton Hill, Northcote, Alphington and Fairfield
  • find collaborators who want to manage or edit particular sites

If you would like to contribute, please contact me. One of the fascinating things that has happened as a result of me publishing these sites is that the contributors are finding other blogs they never knew existed, and they’re telling me how reading these sites has benefited them. I hope this is also the case for the reading public.

We don’t need legacy media corporations intermediating between we the content producers and we the content consumers. We don’t need irrelevant advertising cluttering the design of our publications. We don’t need suits trying to monetise our assets. We are the media now.

the local newspapers of the future

2 thoughts on “the local newspapers of the future

  • 20 August 2009 at 11:12 pm
    Permalink

    I’m new to this concept. But very interested.
    I have lakesentrance.com. At the moment it is an old html site created in (dare i say it) frontpage. I’m currently creating the new site in joomla.
    While local news may not be interesting for the locals, it may be interesting for potential visitors to our region. And I so want to present local news from my site.
    Any info you can give me about Tags etc would be great, if you’re interested in receiving info from this neck of the woods.
    webmaster@lakesentrance.com

    Reply
  • 21 August 2009 at 10:38 am
    Permalink

    Hi Shane and thanks for your comment. When designing a taxonomy (an organised series of categories) using tags I try to keep 2 things in mind. 1) the metadata created will help Google to index my site, so using as many unique relevant keywords as tags is important, and 2) the tags should follow a basic “who, what, where, why, how” formula.

    For example, a guide to fishing like you have at http://www.lakes-entrance.com/fishing.htm. Each time you add a new fishing post tag it with ‘fishing’, the name of the place, the species being caught, etc.

    Reply

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