TRADITIONAL MEDIA may be struggling but there is energy among content producers here in Philadelphia. There are a lot of people doing really cool stuff.
Today, the William Penn Foundation brought together a lot of those folks - established outlets and newbies - to discuss how we might all be able to work together.
Of course, we did not reach a consensus on anything. There was some harping about the 1960's, some ranting about philly.com, and a lot of concern about the general public receiving a comprehensive package of information. There was talk of creating a collaborative website that would also generate original reporting, though the reception of that proposal was rather lukewarm.
Overall, the day was enlightening. And it gave me an idea.
Rather than primarily creating a website dedicated to producing original content, I think there should be a website that aggregates content produced in various communities (geographic and thematic). For instance, there are numerous weekly, community newspapers in the city. Most of them have horrible websites that are difficult to search.
An aggregater would provide easy access for people looking for interesting and unusual stories in the city, i.e. the mainstream media.
The mainstream media primarily react to events now because they don't have the staffing to be proactive - sending reporters into various communities to see what is happening. This aggregater site would provide on-the-ground insight, showing the mainstream media that more happens in some neighborhoods than just the murder of the day. Stories could also be purchased and used by the mainstream media, or the mainstream media could do their own follow up investigations.
To complement the aggregater, I propose a quarterly print publication (and web component) that solely does long-form, investigative journalism. The investigative publication would be directed to high end audiences, people in powerful positions, and those who care deeply about public affairs. The investigative product would serve two purposes: 1). to dig into major issues impacting the city/ region and 2). to act as an agenda-setter for the mainstream media.
There would be sidebars next to the long-form pieces that break down the numbers so that sound-byte media can digest and distribute the information quickly and easily.
The idea would be to create a domino effect in the media because one story in one outlet is not enough anymore.
I think the model could be sustainable. The investigative work would be expensive. Some money could be generated through advertising on the aggregater site. Additional revenue would be generated by the quarterly print issue. The investigative content could also be sold to traditional media, or repurposed in other ways.
It would take start up money to get the wheels rolling, as advertisers would probably not invest in an unknown product.
This could be a way of making people care about the important issues that impact citizens' lives.
Just an idea. I'd appreciate any feedback.
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