Digital Content: The Technological Shift From Global to Local by@andreas212nyc

Digital Content: The Technological Shift From Global to Local

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Users seem to better appreciate a local DNA for news and social media. Is global dead?

As tech giants like Google and Facebook now focus on local — both news and more—platforms already born out of a local DNA, like Nextdoor, Yelp, Foursquare, and even Ring Neighbors by Amazon, seem to be a more obvious choice for today’s digital users of all generations. On the news side, projects like Patch in the US and The Local in Europe are creating best practices.

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The future is local, or rather glocal! As both Facebook and Google now focus on local (news and more), are social platforms like @Nextdoor @Yelp @Foursquare or even @Ring Neighbors a better choice? What about local or hyper-local news outlets like @PatchTweet or @TheLocalEurope ? https://t.co/LyAesULA8l

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Indeed, it looks like the desire to stay digitally local and to migrate from online to offline are key trends in this new phase of the digital age. And large digital platforms are certainly recalibrating their efforts.

To put it in Mark Zuckerberg’s words, “people increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

This shift from global to local is not completely new, just like the desire for people to move from online to offline. These trends are strengthening probably more visible as digital platforms and the news industry are going through a major crisis due to a lack of trust from users and a need from more privacy and data security.

“We are seeing a major attack on the trust and credibility of global media companies,” says Tom Cochran, Edelman DC’s head of digital and integrated marketing, and digital transformation (thomascochran.com). “When our political leaders constantly say ‘fake news’, people start believing it,” he adds.

“That doesn’t diminish the need for authoritative and credible hubs for information,” he continues. “Maybe it’s the dawn of an age similar to over 100 years ago where every major and minor city had a series of newspapers representing a broad set of local views. It worked then because it was a viable business model built on advertising and classifieds revenue. The money follows consumer desires and if this trend is real, someone is going to figure out how to capitalize on it.”

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of about 35,000 Americans, the digital era is making its mark on local news.

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One of the things I love most about the thought process around this interactive by our superb digital team @pewresearch was that they released our entire data set in order to allow other researchers to work with our data. #transparency https://t.co/Xfes3cq6Gs #transparency

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Nearly as many US adults today say they prefer to get their local news online as say they prefer to do so through the television set. The 41% of Americans who say they prefer getting their local news via TV and the 37% who prefer it online far outpace those who prefer a printed newspaper or the radio (13% and 8%, respectively).

Pew underscores that local news consumers prize community connection.

“The public also has high expectations for their area news providers when it comes to their capacity to be a genuine part of the community,” the study continues, while mentioning that an overwhelming majority of adults say it is at least somewhat important for journalists to understand their community’s history (85%) and to be personally engaged with their local area (81%), and at least four-in-ten deem each very important.

As reported by Recode, a year ago, Facebook built a new section of its app specifically for local news, now called Today In. Rani Molla and Kurt Wagner explains that “the idea was that Facebook — which is flooded with all kinds of photos, videos, ads, and events from a wide range of people, publishers, and brands — wanted to create a special section where local news and events would stand out among the crowd.”

However, to quote Mike Allen, co-founder of Axios, “It’s becoming harder to find the news that matters to you, your job, and your community.”

This is true for Facebook too as the company is having trouble finding local news. That is why Facebook has recently announced a new pilot program, the Facebook Journalism (FPJ) Project Community Network, “to support projects aimed at building community through local news.”

“Whether a publisher is trying to build a new business around memberships, report in an underserved community, or build a tool that helps local storytellers find and engage news audiences — we want to provide runway for them to serve their community,” Facebook’s Jimmy O’Keefe and Josh Mabry writes.

Supporting Research on News Deserts - facebookjournalismproject.com

Similarly, Google, through Google News Lab and the Google News Initiative, is about to fund dozens of new local news websites around the United States — and eventually around the world — according to an exclusive report by Sara Fischer at Axios.

The goal of the program, named GNI Local Experiments Project, will be testing new approaches in local business models to help the industry as a whole learn what works and what doesn’t. Axios reports that “The tech giant says it will have no editorial control over the sites, which will be built by partners it selects with local news expertise.”

The first effort to emerge is in partnership with McClatchy, a leading local news and information provider in 30 markets across the US, and their newly-launched Compass Experiment.

McClatchy and Google partner on an experimental lab for local news

“The Compass Experiment isn’t about making incremental improvement for local news,” says McClatchy President and CEO Craig Forman. “It’s about coming up with new approaches, and harnessing the expertise of both McClatchy and Google to create new models.”

He continues: “Google will have no input or involvement in any editorial efforts or decision making.”

For local news, however, it’s not easy. Peter Kafka writes that “local media outlets — the ones that are supposed to tell you what’s happening at your kids’ school, or the zoning board, or the statehouse — are truly in trouble: They lost their most valuable revenue stream many years ago, and since then they have been shrinking, and shrinking, or folding altogether.”

In this environment, there are of course platforms that are doing better.

“Against that backdrop, take a look at Patch, the all-digital local news company you probably stopped paying attention to years ago, when AOL used to own the company,” Kafka says. “For better or worse, it may represent the future of local news.”

The alternative to your dying local paper is written by one person, a robot, and you

He continued: “Here is the glass-half-full news about Patch: Charles Hale, the investor that has owned the company for the past five years, says his network of 1,200 hyper-local sites are turning a profit, generated by more than $20 million in annual ad revenue, without a paywall. The company, led by former New York Times reporter Warren St. John, now employs about 110 journalists, who make an average base salary that ranges from $45,000 to $60,000, and a total of 150 employees. At its AOL-owned peak, Patch had close to 1,000 employees.”

In Europe, local communities have always been the focus of The Local, a Stockholm-based news publisher co-founded by Managing Director Paul Rapacioli and Managing Editor James Savage, whose motto is “Authentic European News, locally sourced.”

“Our Local, niche audiences are an integral part of our readership community and in-turn we feel we provide an essential connection to The Local world around them,” explains on Matt Hope, social media manager at The Local. “Our Facebook Groups show this with so much localized discussion.”

“The value we provide for our readers is that we give them local news in English — i.e. not the local native languages, e.g. Swedish, French or German — so the news we provide not only bridges a language gap but also a cultural gap and as such is an essential part of their relationship with the local community,” Matt explains.

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When it comes to social media platforms, some have always invested in the local fabric of communities and in a mix of online and offline, where users enjoy a digital presence only when it creates opportunities and benefit in their real lives. This is obviously the case for Nextdoor, the social network for neighborhoods launched in 2010 by Nirav Tolia, Sarah Leary, and Prakash Janakiraman. Today the platform, whose notoriety rose exponentially in 2017 during the hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, is available in more than 200,000 neighborhoods in the US, as well as in many communities internationally, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, with tens of millions of users.

“At Nextdoor, we know that when communities are stronger, neighbors are talking to each other, and good things happen,” said newly-appointed Chief Neighbor Sarah Friar, the company’s CEO. “Our love for local expands beyond neighborhood boundaries, including local businesses and public partners. All weave into the fabric of community.”

Smart doorbell maker Ring, recently bought by Amazon, is building a similar platform for its users, called Neighbors. The app is a new neighborhood watch tool “that brings your community together to help create safer neighborhoods,” with real-time crime and safety alerts from neighbors, law enforcement, and the Ring team.

Obviously platforms like Yelp and Foursquare, with their geo-localized services and check-in tools, have embedded a true local DNA in all their activity, although keeping their global footprint.

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A new social app that looks like a weird mix of early Foursquare and Snap Map, with Arianna Huffington on the board and DJ Khaled as a spokesperson https://t.co/igHwec0iDt

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And recently, a new app just launched, Twenty. It’s a new social media tool that seamlessly allows users to see which of their friends are around and what they are doing later, discover nearby events and coordinate plans to meet up in real life. Most social networking products allow users to share highlights of experiences that have occurred in the past or present.

“There’s a tremendous amount of value derived from knowing where your friends are and what they are doing. Twenty has quietly built the best location-sharing product out there and we believe they have the opportunity to be the next breakthrough technology company,” said Mark Shapiro, President of Endeavor, one of the platform’s strategic partners.

“Technology is just a tool. It can be used to enhance our lives by bringing us together, or it can diminish our lives by isolating us from one another,” said Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global, who’s joining Twenty’s Board of Directors. “Looking at the data and hearing from those who have used Twenty across the country, it’s clear that Twenty is proof that technology can truly be a force for good in our lives.”

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