This week's SoCal Connected segment on the future of newspapers took a look at the award-winning Voice of San Diego site. Voiceofsandiego.org bills itself as "the only professionally staffed, nonprofit online news site in the state focused on local news and issues," and while a few sites out there might might quibble about the meaning of "professionally staffed" - does that mean staff writers tasked full-time to work for site and blessed with health benefits, or does an edited site that freelances out to professionals in good standing count? - their tagline does illustrate just one of the many, often diverging trajectories fledgling online news operations are taking. There are for-profit sites and non-profits, professional sites, sites staffed entirely by volunteers, news aggregators, online community-driven sites and pro-am hybrids along the lines of the well-trafficked (but still unprofitable) Huffington Post. To sort that thicket out, we decided to bring you a guide to some of the sites out there trying to bring you the future of California news.
Tagline:: The Sacramento Press will be the most comprehensive, local news source and information center for the Sacramento Metropolitan Area.
Model: For-profit; professionally edited / volunteer staffed. "We combined the best tools on the web and built an outstanding platform from scratch. This platform enables people to tell stories about their neighborhoods and have thoughtful conversations about these stories. Then our editors place the best content on the front page and section pages to highlight great work."
The Skinny: Boasts a clean, thoughtful Web 2.0 design that evokes what the SacPress describes as "the casual experience" of newspapers; the site also features a novel approach to tagging and related stories via the site's storyline tool.
Tagline: Tracking news, views, and conversations in 11,860 towns and neighborhoods
Model: For-profit hyper local aggregate providing geo-tagging tolls and services. No original content, so their resources go into development and design. "outside.in is a hyperlocal news and information service. We help you find places around you, get news for the places and neighborhoods you really care about, and engage more with your neighbors. We also offer bloggers and online publishers GeoToolkit, a great resource with tools, maps, widgets, and stats"
The Skinny: Hyper local and geotagging are the next stage of content aggregation, taking existing blog and newspaper resources and putting them in their proper and highly specific geographic frameworks. An Iphone app that pushes geo-aware content to you as come within range of it can't be far behind.
Spot.Us - Community Funded Reporting Intro from Digidave on Vimeo.
Tagline: Community Funded Reporting
Model: Non-profit news funder. Instead of taking a crowdsourced approach to producing news, Spot.Us takes a crowdsourced approach to funding the production of articles. "Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate. "
The Skinny: National in scope, but Bay-Area-based, the site offers a bleeding-edge solution to the business problem facing journalists interested in going beyond Octo-Mom chatter. Still in the early stages, Spot.us will have to leap the hurdle all collaborative "micropayment" systems confront: do enough people care about the product on offer to pony up a dollar? In Spot.us' case, the "enough people" threshold seems pretty reasonable in web terms - stories are in the $500-$1000 range - but if you generally assume that 1 in 10 visitors to a story pony up, that means a story must be visited tens of thousands of time times before the magic "FULLY FUNDED!" banner appears.
Tagline:: Get Inside Los Angeles
Model: For-profit; professionally edited / volunteer staffed, with an aggregation component. Popular volunteers contributors may be eligible for revenue-sharing on Examiner ad take. "Our content is contributed by passionate, informed people known as Examiners. Examiners are people in your community with a common desire to share their knowledge and expertise with others. Examiners are college students, civil servants, retirees, doctors, musicians, magazine editors and stay-at-home parents."
The Skinny: Essentially a local update of the About.com guide model applied to local news and events. For a long time New York Times-owned About.com was one of the few brightspots piece of the paper's financial picture, but even they've stumbled during the downturn.
Printcasting Publisher Demo - Closed Beta from Dan Pacheco on Vimeo.
Printcasting Local Ad Tool from Dan Pacheco on Vimeo.
Tagline:: Developing tools to open print publishing to anyone
Model: Non-profit web-to-print technology developer hopes to turn the aggregation formula on its head by providing a suite of open-source tools allowing individuals and orgs to push web content and web ads to newsletter-style print publications. "Printcasting will make it possible for anyone to create a local printable newspaper, magazine or newsletter that carries local advertising - all for free -- by pulling together online content from existing sources, such as blogs, and combining it with local advertising that matches the content.
The Skinny: If it works, (always a big if) Printcasting could usher in an era of verdant local micro-publishing, where every shop, cafe, blogger and school could conceivably produce a financially viable and hyper-targeted print publication. The first test real world test of the technology will be coming up in Bakersfield later this year.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in comments below!