Welcome to Civic Edition

February 1, 2010

Local newspapers are facing an uphill fight against unique market forces and the emergence of new internet media. With more and more people getting the bulk of their news from internet sources, the local newspapers are beginning to find it impossible to stay afloat by simply selling subscriptions or advertisement space. And unfortunately, few people are proposing ways to adapt the local newspaper model to the internet age, instead holding on to the past.

This is were we come in. Since this is our first post, we’d like to explain briefly, the purpose of this blog. “Civic Edition” is meant to create a bridge between the growing new worlds of social media and Web 2.0, and the established traditions of the local newspaper. Each week, we will publish a blog dedicated to examining the struggling business model behind the local newspaper and suggesting ways to improve it using new internet technologies and radical new business methods. The local newspaper business needs a “new age” solution to its problems, one that doesn’t fail to take the great changes brought about by internet technology seriously.

But we can’t do this alone. We are just two guys with a lot of experience in business and Web 2.0, but very little knowledge of the local newspaper industry. So we desperately need your help to make this work. Ideally, Civic Edition will be a dialogue between people who are involved in or care about local news and people who understand the deep changes currently taking place in the ways our society accesses information and organizes money. We want you to comment on each of our blog posts. Tell us your ideas, things we might not have thought about, or tell us that we’re just plain wrong when we are. Even if we can get just ninety-eight more people involved in this project, then that’s a hundred brains (including ours!) working hard at solving this problem. And a hundred is a heck of a lot more than two.

We are not journalists, nor are we writers. In fact, we have a third team member who converts our ideas into blog posts each week. But we are experts where it counts. The two of us, Joe and Mike, successfully launched a Web 2.0 social media property within our “core knowledge,” complex sales, three years ago, and it is currently one of the most followed business podcasts in the world. We understand business, and we understand social networking and Web 2.0. As outsiders to the newspaper industry, we are looking at the local newspaper as a business problem, one that needs a radically new approach to survive.

One of our favorite books on business, Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath, explains a phenomenon in which the “Curse of Knowledge,” or a wealth of knowledge regarding how things used to work, can block new ideas that could work in the present from surfacing. This is exactly what has happened in the music industry, where major businesses have failed to adapt to new conditions in the market. But we hope that this will not happen to local newspapers. And yet the only way for things to be different, is if we find a way to shake up the way things are usually done, combining traditional knowledge with radical new ideas.

Luckily, there is one thing that is working for us, and this is that local newspapers already supply a deep community network, a traditional network, but a network nonetheless. All that needs to be done is to find a way to transition this network into the “new age” of internet technology and Web 2.0, so that it can survive as a model. But we need people who know the industry and people who aren’t afraid to think outside the newsstand to come together and exchange ideas. We need you, the community of people who create, care about, and read local newspapers to participate by leaving comments and criticisms whenever you can. We hope that this will not simply be a blog, but a constructive dialogue. Hence, our name “Civic Edition,” a community of citizens working together to bring local news into the new age.

Think outside the newsstand

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