April 23, 2007

What's Missing from Your Local News?

by tolles at 11:38 AM

When we were trying to figure out what we needed to do to make Topix better, we went out and talked to a lot of people. I was personally surprised at how much people cared about the news about where they lived -- and what I learned when I listened to what they had to say. Those reactions and insights from the community went a long way into powering our re-invention. What all these people said when we asked them about the news and what mattered to them was so interesting, that I wanted more. I wanted to figure out a way to get in the heads of more people than I could talk to myself.

So, we noodled over a couple of different ways to do this, and some of the folks here took the initiative to test different approaches at SXSW – and out of all the things we tried, the best answers and most insight were consistently evoked by a simple question “What’s Missing From Your Local News?” We’ve posed that question to the community here at Topix, gone out with street teams and asked people at Web 2.0, and we’d love to get your take on it as well.

We also commissioned a mini-documentary that we hope will spark even more discussion around this question “What’s Missing From Your Local News” – and the results are pretty cool:

We went to the folks at PodTech, and had a lot of help from their entire crew, led by Valerie Cunningham, to help us figure this out. We asked them to find people that would have something interesting to say, and then let them say it. We didn’t tell them to come back with a particular answer, nor did we exercise any editorial control over the result. We did want them to be open about our involvement, but we didn’t script the answers, and the Podtech crew put together and shipped it on the net ahead of showing this to us.

We’re in discussions with Podtech about putting out each of the component pieces separately, and we’d love to figure out ways to make this something that the community can use beyond what we’re doing with it here at Topix.

We’re proud that we could help spark some discussion here, and thank everyone who helped put this together. We would love your take on this question, and will keep asking you until you come and tell us. Beyond what we’re doing at Topix to address this issue, we think that local news, the way it’s reported, discussed and distributed is important and involves all of us.

Hope you like it – and if you don’t, tell us what you think.