Knight Foundation to Fund Plug-and-Play Version of EveryBlock

Pat Thornton talks with Gary Kebbel about a possible future for EveryBlock’s open-sourced code: “The Knight Foundation is working with advisers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to form a team to further development of EveryBlock and make it much easier for news organizations to set up the software on their sites, Kebbel said. Knight will work with several news organizations around the country to install EveryBlock for them. Once this additional development is completed, the new code will be released.”

Knight Foundation to Fund Plug-and-Play Version of EveryBlock

Announcing: ReportingOn 2.0 is live

ReportingOn 2.0 is live and ready for your questions. And answers.

It’s still the backchannel for your beat, but it’s an absolute re-imagining of the network.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping score, ReportingOn is a project funded by the Knight News Challenge, and it’s a place for journalists of all stripes to find peers with experience dealing with a particular topic, story, or source.

ReportingOn 2.0 on the morning of launch, July 2, 2009.

(You can catch up with our progress reports from year one and related concepts at the PBS Idea Lab blog.)

The first time out, I built it to be quite Twitter-esque in the hopes that journalists would use it like Twitter, asking questions of their followers and sharing ideas about stories they were working on.

That didn’t happen organically, or if it was going to, it was going to take years. So, with the help of a professional development and design team, we’ve rebuilt the site from the ground up, framed around the act of asking and answering questions.

There’s no 140-character limit, but what you will find are lots of basic features that make sense in this sort of social network.

You can ‘watch’ users, beats, or a particular question, viewing everything in an activity feed that brings you the latest questions and answers from the journalists, topics, and particular issues you’re interested in.

I think you’ll like it.

And, as the grant year for ReportingOn comes to a close, we’re also making the source code for ReportingOn available here under the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 3. You can use that to build your own backchannel question and answer tool for the journalists in your news organization, or even let your readers ask and answer questions.

I want to repeat that and extend it a bit…

Here are four things that could happen next:

  1. itself is a stunning success, with thousands of journalists asking and answering great questions every day, finding peers and mentors, improving local news by adding context and insight gleaned from others working similar angles on stories in far-flung locales.
  2. A media company uses ReportingOn’s open-sourced codebase to build their own internal backchannel, probably on an intranet, or requiring authentication so they can limit it to members of their own organization.
  3. A single news organization uses ReportingOn to do the same thing — build an internal backchannel.
  4. A single news organization uses ReportingOn’s open-sourced codebase to build a public tool that allows readers, sources, and reporters to ask and answer questions in a sort of open forum.

What else could you do with ReportingOn? Give it a shot, and let us know.

What’s next for 2.01 and beyond? We’ll let the dust settle over the next few days and figure out which additional features we want to build first, then we’ll take a look at our budget and consider the options. Feel free to check out to get an idea of where we might go next, and add your own ideas, too!

Thanks to everyone who helped get this launch out the door on time and on budget, especially the Lion Burger development and design team, all the friends and colleagues who gave me their input over the last year, those of you that answered my last-minute call for beta testers, and the Knight Foundation staff for supporting the first year of ReportingOn.

So… Any questions?

Dealing with the elephant, elsewhere

Paul Bradshaw comes up with a list of 10 ways that ad sales people can save newspapers:

“…how about a slot against the ‘most popular’ story of that minute (if it helps, think of it as the equivalent as the front page ad), second most popular, and so on (you could even auction these slots in the same way as Google does with AdWords).”

Daniel Victor calls for online news workers to stop playing the Underpants Gnome game:

“Basically, Web-savvy reporters right now are the Underpant Gnomes. We’re getting better at gathering the underpants, but we don’t know how to turn them into profit yet. That Web content is providing very little revenue now, and we don’t know how it’ll produce more revenue in the future.”

A few weeks ago at Idealab, MIT professor Chris Csikszentmihályi questioned the wisdom of looking for a “business model” at all:

“While the model in which a firm produces a product is common and viable, some of the biggest product success stories in recent history don’t actually come from businesses. That’s not to say that no one is making money from these products; there is plenty of green in these fields. But there isn’t a one-to-one mapping between business (in the sense of a firm) and product. These new products are generated under the alternate organization of knowledge, labor, and capital called the free software model.”

When the term “open-source news” has been thrown around in the past, it usually was related to what became a logic (if not exactly a movement) called Citizen Journalism. But what about the idea that the business of a news organization could be open-sourced? What does that even look like, organizationally speaking. And financially?

Things to continue to think about:

  1. Practical, iterative ways to work within today’s organizational structure to increase online advertising revenue.
  2. Getting the Webbiest brains in the newsroom to think about monetizing their work.
  3. What does a news business look like after we throw out the existing model and start fresh?

Newspapers: Make money online, minus the news

Who knows more about Santa Cruz, California than the Santa Cruz Sentinel?

Well, that’s debatable, but let’s put it another way: Who’s bothered to put together a modern, readable Santa Cruz site for tourists?

That’s right, the Santa Cruz Sentinel. is live, and it looks like a damn good idea.

Destination Santa Cruz

Build a site that has nothing to do with news, don’t put your brand anywhere on it, fill it up with valuable content for tourists looking for hotels, restaurants, etc., and sell some ads.

The site looks and feels new and real, not like the sort of cheap hotel aggregator site full of paid links and annoying pop-ups I often find through search engines.

Instead, the Sentinel used Joomla, an open-source content management system, without worrying about shoehorning all this content into an existing database on its existing, conventional, and slightly outdated newspaper site.

I love it. I would tell friends and family to use this site to find a hotel here. If I’m willing to recommend it to my Mom, that means you did a good job, folks.

I’ll be interested to see where this site comes up in search engines. Hopefully, the use of, y’know, actual content, will help it beat out the crud.