Building an online local news site

Over the past few months we’ve been spending a lot of time building a local news website for Swords, in North County Dublin.

The new site is called SwordsToday.ie

While traditional newspapers continue to struggle converting to the digital and social media age, there is still a huge demand for local news in towns such as Swords. The era when people were happy with a weekly update from their local newspaper is long over. Daily updates, using a well-designed website linked with a Facebook page and Twitter is the new normal.

While still in the very early stages of its development, the response from people in Swords is very encouraging: Online local news is part of the digital future.

Deep Diving

2013 is getting off to a promising start with plenty of online commentators talking about the increasing importance of producing quality content over the coming year.

I love this quote from Social Media Today:

In 2013, content will not only be king, but queen, prince and jester, too.

People seem to be slowly cottoning on to the fact that the fastest broadband connection, the spiffiest graphics and the best online tools mean nothing if the content they deliver is, well, crap.

One of the stalwarts of good old-fashioned American journalism, Charlie Rose, recently interviewed two of Twitter’s founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams. They told an interesting story about their new start-up, Medium, which champions “deep diving”, among other things, that sense of having access to a rich vein of information about a particular subject, which runs counter to the prevailing orthodoxy of Web culture. Medium is a space on the Web where quality content can flourish.

In their manifesto for what Medium can be the founders write:

The Internet can do more than make publishing free and easy. And, in some respects, there’s been less advancement than one might expect in the years since the web has become mainstream.

And in a paragraph that will strike a cord with many, they say:

It’s not too late to rethink how online publishing works and build a system optimized for quality, rather than popularity. Where anyone can have a voice but where one has to earn the right to your attention. A system where people work together to make a difference, rather than merely compete for validation and recognition. A world where thought and craftsmanship is rewarded more than knee-jerk reactions.

Great content takes time, so the immediacy of the Web and the demands made by Web users for new material right now play against quality. But a movement is beginning, as evidenced by Medium.

“Craftsmanship” – how often do you read such a word in the context of Web content?

Inspiring storytelling

Ever since the traditional publishing gatekeepers were removed, we are constantly reminded how easy it is to publish our own blog or website or Facebook page. Yet it’s startling how many of us find that challenge so overwhelming.

Access to publishing tools (and learning to use them) has never been easier, but the old problem of the blank page and brain-freeze remains.

With that in mind, here’s a list of websites and apps that should inspire you to tell the story (any story) better:

1) Second story
2) Mediastorm
3) Reuters iPad app
4) Flipboard
5) TED
6) 500px

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing about, or making video about or creating motion graphics for, make sure you have your own list of inspiring sites to visit when the ideas have dried up and the page is blank.