Should newspapers follow the MySpace example?

As newspapers increasingly ramp out Web 2.0 features, Ryan Sholin ponders whether we should be following MySpace’s example and start ramping out our own social networks.

I’d argue that, if we were to prioritize our efforts, we should be emulating Google before MySpace. Newspapers should be striving to catalog everything about their communities. Where are all the parks? Who’s who? Why is the city’s name what it is? Who’s the future A-Rod on the Little League team? Where am I more likely to get mugged?

This approach, while not as technology-centric as creating a web page index, is the essence of Google. That is, answering questions. Newspapers have the distinct advantage of having real people on the ground who know their communities, unlike many of the other soulless hyperlocal endeavors out there.

What we should be focusing on is producing ALL of our content in as flexible a format as possible to allow it to be syndicated and re-purposed into social networks, whether they be external or our own. If newspapers want to take a stab at creating the networks themselves, then they should by all means. But let’s focus on creating the best damn journalism out there, thinking harder about how we deliver it and balancing the “fun-to-write” journalism with gathering the information people truly need.

Author: Danny Sanchez

Danny Sanchez is the Audience Development Manager at Tribune's and Danny has been with Tribune since 2005 in a variety of editorial, digital and product development roles in Hartford, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. He has also previously worked in the newsrooms of the Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald.

3 thoughts on “Should newspapers follow the MySpace example?”

  1. Is it either/or?

    Going with the premise that online community news sites should strive to be as complete as possbile, and produce damn great journalism along the way, then being the hub for community participation and communication seems to be essential. I don’t see any seperation between the audience and the reporter any longer. We’re all the audience and we’re all the reporter. To do that right, you need to host the participation. There is no longer a place for Packaged Goods Media.

  2. I don’t think it’s either/or. My argument is that we should be focusing, at least in the short term, on how to think differently about our reporting efforts and going further with the content we already gather. How can we get more bang for our buck, in other words? Newspaper stories are rich with information, but they’re just getting dumped into an archive somewhere without really making that information flexible.

    In no way did I mean that we shouldn’t be building social networks. In fact, that’s what much of my own work involves, and it’s crucial work. When you look at the characteristics of a newspaper, one of its key elements is that it helps define its community and should reflect the thoughts, attitudes and culture of its readers. This, is the essence of creating local networks, and there’s probably no one better positioned than newspapers to do it at the local level.

    But I don’t think the laissez-faire approach to MySpace profiles is what newspapers should be doing. I think Facebook and Wikipedia are far better examples. I want users to be able to build a reputation for themselves on our site and provide insightful commentary and reporting, not figure out the best possible ways to make the site look hideous with custom wallpaper, music and commercial interests masquerading as innocent users.

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