A blueprint for the Complete Community Connection
Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications
stevebuttry.wordpress.com, (319) 398-5815, email@example.com
This is a vision for transformation of our media company and of media companies in general. A
vision like this needs lots of detail and I'll provide plenty of that in related posts. But most
important, it needs a simple proposition – how consumers and business customers will see us:
For consumers, we will be their essential connection to community life – news, information,
commerce, social life. Like many Internet users turn first to Google, whatever their need, we
want Eastern Iowans to turn first to Gazette Communications, whatever their need. For
businesses, we will be their essential connection to customers, often making the sale and
collecting the money. We will become the Complete Community Connection.
Our company will provide an interactive, well-organized, easily searched, ever-growing, always
updated wealth of community news, information and opportunities on multiple platforms. We
need to become the connection to everything people and businesses need to know and do to live
and do business in Eastern Iowa. We need to change from producing new material for one-day
consumption in the print product or half-hour consumption in the broadcast product to producing
new content for this growing community network of information and opportunities.
Tim McGuire of Arizona State University, with whom I shared a draft of this blueprint,
cautioned me: "Do not underestimate how scary and how big the concept of moving beyond one-
day consumption is." This may be a scary change for our industry, but these are scary times. I
can think of nothing more scary for our industry than failure to reach far enough or change
News remains essential to our mission and our identity, but cannot limit our vision. We do need
to add to our information content storehouse daily with news and other information, some of it
perishable but much of it evergreen. We need to be a portal through which you can easily reach
any information or activities in the community. We need to provide a conveniently organized,
easily searchable treasure chest of information that feeds multiple products that consumers reach
in a variety of ways:
Through community portals that direct them to useful information.
Through habitual use of individual products using our content.
Through direct access to raw content before it is packaged for various products.
Virally as word spreads about the usefulness of our content, our various products or of
the community network we develop.
The details of the Complete Community Connection -- C3 -- will be determined not by my
decree but by the needs of the marketplace and by the creativity and abilities of the staff. I spell
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them out here to help staff, colleagues, community, company leaders and colleagues in the
media to see the possibilities, not to dictate an exact prescription. I welcome ideas that add to and
improve this vision. It will work most effectively when it is our vision, not my vision.
We will reach some people who never read The Gazette or watch KCRG by doing important jobs
such as connecting them with people of common interests or helping them find the products and
services that help them live their lives. We will serve other people in multiple ways, producing
and delivering their morning paper and their evening newscast, providing text news alerts during
the day and networking them in the community in a variety of ways.
In many of these categories, our work is to design the digital infrastructure, develop the digital
meeting place and promote the product, but the content will be provided by users, businesses and
individuals. In other cases, content will be material from our archives or from daily news content
that we give evergreen use. We will need to generate considerable new content for some of these
products. And where we are relying on content from the community, we will need to invest
considerably in curating, editing, monitoring and promoting the content.
In all of these cases, we need to look at mobile opportunities and email opportunities as well as
print and web. And we should watch for new opportunities as new technology presents new ways
to connect. We should explore every possibility for providing people the news and information
they want when they want it, whether that means email, text message, RSS feed, Twitter feed,
social media, iPod, game device, GPS device or some other way of interaction. And, of course,
print and broadcast will remain key platforms for some of this content for the foreseeable future.
Despite our reduction in staff, this is a vision for a growing media company that eventually will
generate new revenue streams to support new jobs.
The C3 will help people form personal connections with our staff and each other similar to the
personal connections they feel to Beth Malicki, Bruce Aune and other KCRG anchors. They will
feel as if they know people they have never met, ranging from the bloggers they follow to moms
or sports fans they connect with through our network. The C3 will form a relationship with its
users reminiscent of that possessive feeling readers used to have (and, fortunately, as we've seen
again and again since the flood, many still have) with "my" newspaper. They tell us with pride or
anger that we were "my" paper. Sometimes they would tell us that they didn't want that kind of
content in "my" paper. While that's an uncomfortable conversation, it's an ideal business
In the same way, C3 will be "my" web site, "my" email alert, "my" podcast, "my" text buddy,
"my" shopping solution, "my" connection to customers, "my" solution for lots of life's little and
big jobs for individuals and businesses alike. (And yes, still, "my" newspaper.)
This overview introduces a collection of blog posts explaining the Complete Community
Connection in detail. Continue reading about the background and concepts of C3:
Development of C3
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Then read about the five major categories of C3 content and connection:
Personal content and connection
Business marketing and communication services
Development of the C3 blueprint
I don't know whether I'm the right person to help guide Gazette Communications into a
challenging and uncertain future. But I do know that I am here because of a vision for the future
of what we now know as newspaper companies that I shared with Publisher Dave Storey and
CEO Chuck Peters last year as Storey was seeking a new editor.
Both in interviews and in writing, I shared an earlier version of this vision with them. That was
about the second draft; this collection of blog posts is at least the fifth draft. I wrote the first draft
in the summer of 2007. I had spent most of that year working on the Newspaper Next project at
the American Press Institute, teaching a new model for innovation to the newspaper business.
Partnering with Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen, the world's foremost authority
on disruptive innovation, N2 developed a new process for newspapers to use in innovation
projects and a new strategic framework for transforming newspaper companies. It became the
buzz of the industry and colleagues and I taught the concepts of N2 across the country and
around the world.
Most of the industry barely budged, falling deeper and deeper into classic patterns of disruption
that Christensen has described in industry after industry. The typical response to N2's call for
fundamental transformation was enthusiastic affirmation, then launching a good project or two or
a few, but not addressing the need for thorough organizational transformation.
Our industry seems to be clinging to Darwin's theory of evolution, hoping that gradual adaptation
to changing environment will be enough to help us survive. That works in biology, but in today's
disruptive business world, survival of the fittest is a matter of revolution, not evolution.
This series of blog posts is my call for revolution in media companies, starting at Gazette
Interestingly, most of the most innovative work we saw in response to Newspaper Next focused
on developing new ways to provide content that helped people do useful jobs in their lives. We
weren't seeing many creative ways to develop new revenue streams. And as the traditional
revenue streams began to decline, the need for revenue grew acute and obvious.
At API, we began discussing the need for a new vision for the future of newspapers, a
community-based communication company for the digital age. We recognized the need for a
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second Newspaper Next report, sharing the stories of innovation and partnering with Borrell
Associates to provide some advice on developing new digital revenue sources. Steve Gray,
managing director of N2, developed a vision of expanding our reach in the community and
becoming a local information and connection utility. Steve saw newspaper companies growing
into a multi-function operation that would be essential to community life for consumers and
essential for businesses seeking to connect with consumers.
I didn't think the utility vision went far enough. After all, in our heyday, newspapers had a
personal, possessive relationship with our consumers. Maybe we were a monopoly, like most
utilities, but to the consumer we were "my newspaper," a phrase editors would hear emphatically
when we published something offensive. That's a different relationship than any utility has with
its consumers. Utilities may be necessary and I shared Steve's vision of a company that was
useful in multiple ways to consumers and businesses, essential to community life. But I thought
we needed to make that connection deeper and more personal.
I offered the first draft of this vision, a Word document about 30 pages long, in the summer of
2007, while Steve was working on the report we eventually called Newspaper Next 2.0. I can't
recall the name I initially gave to the concept, but my API colleague Mark Mulholland, who
liked my vision, came up with a better name that we're still using: Complete Community
For a variety of reasons, we didn't include C3 in the N2 2.0 report. I wasn't and am not bitter
about that. I remain affiliated, leading API ethics seminars and occasionally speaking at
other API programs. But I also wanted to see whether I could find a newspaper company that
wanted to make C3 a reality. My API colleagues had talked frequently about the need for a
laboratory newspaper company that someone would donate to API, where we could work our
transformation and then showcase our achievements and teach our lessons. That wasn't working
out, so I decided to find a company willing to hire me and take a chance on my ideas.
I should stress here my deep and thorough gratitude to my friends and colleagues at API for their
leadership in efforts to transform this industry. Steve Gray and Drew Davis, API's president who
conceived and launched Newspaper Next, are true visionaries whose teaching and inspiration led
directly to the ideas presented here. I don't fault them for not adopting my ideas as their own; I
thank them for providing the foundation for these ideas and the freedom to develop and pursue
them. They will share in any success this blueprint achieves. I should add that colleagues at API
- Mark, Carol Ann Riordan, Elaine Clisham, Mary Glick, Mary Peskin and Noel Burkman -- also
helped shape my ideas and contributed to the creative and collegial environment that produced
While at API, I also did most of the research and writing for Be the Answer: Using interactive
databases to provide answers and generate revenue, published by API late last year. That
research contributed to the C3 concept as well. A few passages of that report have been adapted
and rewritten as part of this blueprint. But I encourage reading the full report to understand all
the possibilities for C3 in effectively using databases (I like to call them answerbases, as I
explain in the report, because consumers don't often go looking for data, but frequently need
answers, which data can provide.)
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Early in 2008, when I decided to seek opportunities outside API, I updated and polished the C3
concept and began seeking such an opportunity. I discussed the concepts with Dave, Chuck and
other company leaders through an interview process that started in February and continued
I became confident that Gazette Communications and I would be a good match when I saw a
presentation Chuck made at the Newspaper Association of America convention in Washington
last April. From the beginning, I recognized that my vision was at best a description of what the
newspaper company of the future should become and do. While I was confident that I was
articulating the right goal, I was less sure of how to get there. As I heard Chuck discuss his idea
to separate development of content from management of products (a concept that was thoroughly
confusing to most of the newspaper executives in the room), I realized that his how-to ideas
matched up well with my what-to ideas.
By May, Dave and I had an agreement that I would come to Cedar Rapids as editor and try to
make C3 happen in Eastern Iowa.
Over the next few weeks, as I wrapped up my API business and prepared for my move here, I
worked on rewriting the C3 vision, updating to add new ideas and to make them specific to the
communities where I would be applying them. I was about a week from finishing that third draft
by the time I reached town. I figured I would share it with my staff and colleagues throughout
the company in a week or two, after we got to know each other a little, and then we would roll up
our sleeves and get busy on the work of transformation.
In transformation as well as in comedy, timing is everything. Too much has already been written
about the timing of my arrival at The Gazette, two days before the June 12 flood inundated so
much of this wonderful city. My focus shifted immediately from the innovation challenge of a
lifetime to the news story of a lifetime. While the staff of GazetteOnline was already using new
digital tools and techniques, we used more and more in covering the flood and its aftermath. We
also excelled in traditional journalism, winning community, state, regional and national awards.
And I recognized that I needed to update my vision to address the unique disaster recovery our
community faced and the role that we could play in that process. Sometime in July I shared that
fourth draft of the C3 vision with the newsroom and with the executive team. Chuck started
using Complete Community Connection as the title for his blog and that's what we started calling
the division of the company once known as Gazette Publications.
I don't know of a 126-year-old company that changes its organization and culture swiftly, and
I'm quite sure Clayton Christensen would affirm that they are rare, if such a company exists. In
many departments throughout the company, we were working through the fall to make changes
through a laborious process called workforce development. By late November, Chuck grew
impatient with the pace and direction of change, an impatience I shared (though in truth, I'm sure
I contributed at times to the pace). In a couple of blog posts and in some meetings with
executives, Chuck exhorted us late last year to develop a new mindset and tried to help us
understand the fundamental changes we were undertaking.
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The last few months have been wrenching for this company. Recognizing the realities of a
national recession piled on top of a local disaster and the disruption throughout the advertising
business, we have had to eliminate some jobs and reduce our staff by about 100 from the pre-
flood levels. The long-haul work of transformation cannot ignore the here-and-now realities of
cash flow. An unpleasant reality of transformation is that you learn as you are working and you
make adjustments, sometimes changing directions dramatically, even though you're still pursuing
the same goal. We have done that a time or two, most recently deciding that separation of
content from product needs to be a companywide venture, transforming the work of KCRG as
well as The Gazette and our related products.
Chuck and I were discussing my role here recently and he described me as an architect,
designing our future. So this series of blog posts is the blueprint. We decided it was time to
update this vision again, sharing it with the whole company and with the community and with
colleagues around the country and beyond who are watching our efforts. Please read and
comment. If you don't feel like commenting publicly, please feel free to ask questions and make
suggestions by email or personally.
Whether newspapers as a product survive the current turmoil or not, communities need to
connect and they need news and information. We hope and believe we are transforming our
company to develop and provide a community network that will help our communities, our
region and our state connect in meaningful ways long into the future, sharing big and small news
on all levels, connecting individuals with each other and connecting businesses with customers.
While I address our company's particular local situation and our unique challenges and
opportunities, I believe the Complete Community Connection approach is the right model for
media companies to follow in revolutionizing to pursue a prosperous future. I invite other
community news organizations to try the C3 approach, to share your stories on this blog and help
us all in the revolution. I am pleased that Gazette Communications is working aggressively to
innovate. But we have limited resources. We can't do everything that I propose here at once and
we are bound to make some mistakes along the way. We hope to have some success stories to
share with our colleagues (and probably will share some lessons learned from those mistakes).
But we also hope to learn from your successes and mistakes.
C3 needs a new revenue approach for the digital marketplace
Revenue generation traditionally isn't a journalist's job, but helping develop a business model for
the future of journalism is every journalist's job today. The job cuts throughout our industry
(including here) have done too much damage to journalism to cling to our long-nurtured disdain
for the economic facts of life. Journalists can protect our integrity and still collaborate in
developing a new business model.
Content and revenue must be planned together, so any innovation plan must address both needs.
While I know big parts of the solutions here will and should come from colleagues in other
departments, revenue generation must be part of the vision and I discuss it extensively
throughout this blueprint.
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The Newspaper Next 2.0 report released last year cited the importance of developing the
potential of email, video and search advertising opportunities for businesses and of assigning
specialists to the distinct challenge of selling digital advertising. I affirm that approach and will
mention aspects of it frequently here but will not develop it in depth because that report already
detailed those points extensively and effectively.
I will cite specific examples as I explain details of this blueprint, but those examples are only a
start of the model I envision for C3 to move toward results-based performance of jobs for
businesses, including conducting transactions for business customers. We need to connect the
business with the customer and collect the money, taking a reasonable cut for ourselves.
Gift registries for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, babies, retirements and holidays are
important opportunities. Obituaries offer chances to send flowers and contribute to memorial
funds. Our products and content relating to the arts and entertainment must include opportunities
to buy tickets to movies, concerts and other events online or to buy books or download songs.
Sports sites will offer chances to buy tickets, clothing, memorabilia, etc. The calendar will offer
registration for events and classes, ticket sales and so on. Dining content will include
opportunities to make reservations or buy gift certificates. For Hawkeye sporting events,
community festivals and University of Iowa events such as graduation and orientation, we will
offer chances to make reservations online for lodging, meals and entertainment. Our iGuide
business directory needs to include options for coupons, gift certificates, direct purchases,
making reservations, placing orders, requesting information. When we use traditional ads priced
by how many thousand people see them, we should seek to include options to click to download
a coupon, buy a gift certificate or order a product, delivering more value for the business and a
bigger pay-for-performance cut for us.
E-Me Ventures or other vendors may be able to develop these solutions for us or we may need
partnerships with PayPal, Ticketmaster, Amazon, iTunes and so on, probably a combination. But
somehow we need to become a sales channel, not just an advertising vehicle.
With online advertising rates low and print advertising revenue declining precipitously and local
broadcast revenue also in decline, newspapers need to broaden our vision of serving business
customers and move swiftly into direct sales and other business services such as lead-generation
and email marketing. This may be a phased process, where we start with lead generation,
coupons, inquiries and links to business web sites as we work out the technology challenges of
interfacing with the inventory and ordering software of other companies or find a vendor who
has already figured that out. Of course, as we work those challenges out, we will have
tremendous economic opportunities in selling our solutions throughout the industry.
Our approach will offer businesses a chance to pay based on performance, which gives them
higher confidence as well as higher value. More important, it turns our company from an
expense line in its customers' budgets to a revenue line. The current advertising decision is a
choice of making a commitment up front to a substantial investment based on the hope of
generating significant business. In this recession and in the economic vise of a community
recovering from disaster, we are seeing that when businesses are cutting expenses, advertising is
a large expense without an obvious dollar-for-dollar connection to revenue. It becomes an
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inviting place to cut. But advertising works, so the business that cuts advertising sees its revenue
decline (but may not recognize the decline's relationship to the decision to cut advertising, since
the economy is such a handy scapegoat). So the business needs to cut expenses again and there is
that advertising expense line -- a bit smaller than last time but still inviting.
We can't afford to be in that cycle in these times, especially with cheaper advertising options as
plentiful as they are now. On the other hand, if our payment is a cut of revenue generated for a
business, the business is happy to pay it. In fact, since we are collecting the money for the
business, it doesn't even write us a check. We become like payroll taxes to the individual, a huge
expense that you don't really feel because you never had the money in your hand. We send the
customer money after taking a cut. So when the business needs more money, it starts thinking
about how to do more business with us, so we will send more money.
Of course, traditional advertising will still do important jobs for some of our business customers,
so we hope to be both an expense line and a revenue line for many businesses. In these cases, the
cut in advertising expense in difficult times may actually be a shift into our pay-for-performance
Assumptions of the C3 blueprint
Before I go into much detail in this blueprint, I need to address the underlying assumptions:
Whether you are an employee, a consumer, a business in our community or a colleague in some
aspect of the media industry, your assumptions about the future are generally based on the past.
We need to sever that connection.
As you read this blueprint, don't assume anything based on how media companies have
traditionally operated or how we currently operate. That economic model is collapsing and this is
a blueprint for a new way of doing business -- new relationships with the community, new
relationships with business customers, new relationships with business partners and competitors,
new tools and technology for doing business, new structure and organization for doing business.
For instance, I will write at times about our possible opportunities to connect with customers and
provide services on a statewide basis. In the past, many would have assumed this was a shot
across the bow of the Des Moines Register, our longtime competitor which once (when I worked
there) provided aggressive statewide coverage and still boasts that it was the "newspaper Iowa
depends upon." We still compete in ways, but perhaps we also should consider partnerships with
the Register and other Iowa media organizations to collaborate in serving customers and
businesses across the state. We all are facing the same sort of disruption in our business model
and we may find solutions together that benefit all of us and all of our communities.
Those solutions may still leave plenty of room for healthy competition in news coverage of such
shared interests as the Iowa Hawkeyes, state government and the Iowa caucuses. But don't
assume even that. Maybe those are areas of potential cooperation, too (we're already operating
our Des Moines bureau jointly with Lee Enterprises).
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The point is: Don't assume anything based on the past. We are proud of our past and cherish our
heritage, but we want to honor that heritage by pursuing a future that isn't limited by assumptions
from the past.
My new title, information content conductor, is an example of our need to break away from
assumptions of the past. Editor is a title with a long and proud history and a title that carries
many assumptions that can interfere with understanding of the new direction and the new
Please note that I will not talk much in this blueprint about specific products, whether they would
be venerable products such as The Gazette or KCRG, fledgling products such as Hoopla or
IowaPrepSports or revamped products such as Iowa.com. We need to provide and manage
effective products to help make the connections. But products will come and go. We may
eventually develop a communication network where people can reach the information they need
effectively without the packaging we do in preparing each of these products. Or we may develop
more efficient products that we cannot envision now because the tools that will enable them have
not been developed yet.
I also won't focus heavily in this blueprint on the use of social media in building this community
network. I have written and spoken extensively about the value of Twitter and other social media
and I believe they are valuable tools that we will need to use effectively. But like products, social
tools will come and go, becoming essential as they provide effective solutions and obsolete as
something better comes along behind them.
This blueprint will focus on development of the community network and the content and
connections that will make it important in people's lives.
The C3 approach to community content
The Complete Community Connection will always have its roots in news and we must maintain
a strong commitment to news. But much of our future success will come from our ability to
develop useful community content whose value is timeless, rather than timely.
C3 must develop community content in five different (though often overlapping) categories:
These content areas will require decisions and provide opportunities as we decide when and
whether to focus on Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and our core market, or whether we have some
valuable opportunities to pursue at the statewide level (or at the hyperlocal level).
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Community-content opportunities: Driving
Newspaper companies have gone about trying to protect the automotive vertical all wrong. We
have tried to compete head-on with the other sites focused on the rare job of buying a car (I did
that job last summer for the first time in more than five years and don't expect to do it again for
several more years). If your value in the cars vertical is something the consumer rarely sees, your
competition is not based on a steady relationship but on ability to attract attention. You are just
clamoring for attention along with Autotrader, Cars.com, craigslist, eBay and all the other places
selling cars. And let's be honest: Lots of young people buy cars and they aren't buying
newspapers and we aren't winning the battle to become the online destination for car buyers.
Instead, the Complete Community Connection should focus on the daily and weekly jobs that
can help drivers and car owners regularly over time. We need to develop a place where drivers in
our community want to check in before (or during) their daily commute, each time they drive to
a Hawkeye game, during inclement weather and every time they fill up their gas tank.
We already have a valuable map of gas prices and offer text alerts on traffic but we need to do
more. When the city installs red-light cameras, we need to aggregate those feeds, so people can
check traffic and road conditions at any time throughout the city. Other driving-related
answerbases establishing us as a one-stop place for all jobs related to owning or driving a car:
gas pump inspections, bridge inspections, parking offenders, vanity license plates, parking meter
We're not a huge, congested metro area where traffic is a nightmare, but I heard Gazette
Publisher Dave Storey complaining about the traffic on his daily commute just in the past week.
Washingtonpost.com, Eastvalleytribune.com, MercuryNews.com, PalmBeachPost.com and
Boston.com provide their communities with real-time traffic maps, showing locations of
accidents and construction projects. You can turn on state traffic cameras and see what the traffic
looks like right now.
We need to help drivers connect at our driving vertical with discussion forums, sharing photos of
souped-up cars, contests and advice. We need to invite drivers to swap stories on topics such as
winter driving, first cars, teaching teens to drive and so on. Like the Bakersfield Californian, we
can develop a map where users enter locations of bad potholes, both warning the public and
automatically emailing the city. During a big snowstorm, we can ask users to enter the time when
plows reach their streets (this could provide a strong front-page story for The Gazette and a lead
story on KCRG's newscast).
Driving is an area where we can call on the community to provide much of our content. We can
develop a map where drivers vote on the slowest or most dangerous intersections (we could start
by mapping where accidents occur) or call attention to the roads most in need of repair and invite
motorists to vent their complaints about them.
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Once you start identifying the jobs and questions and providing solutions and answers, you will
provide the place for drivers to turn every day. (This site would be a great place for drivers to
buy their insurance online after comparing rates from different companies.)
We need to present the auto-services portion of the iGuide here. We'll provide a place where you
can enter your need for urgent service (using your phone, because many times this need arises
from the road) and quickly get email, text or telephone responses from repair services who can
get you in that day. We'll be the place that you compare and buy insurance and accessories. In
some cases, we may have an opportunity to provide a service where none exists. In others, we
will provide an essential place to do business for those who already provide such services.
Of course, services related to buying and selling cars will be part of this information channel as
well, ranging from ads to reviews to financing to product information. This has always been the
heart of our automotive vertical and it left us more vulnerable to disruption. Buying a car is a big
enough purchase that it doesn't have to be a local transaction and that local sellers have a huge
incentive to work through national sales vehicles. But driving and owning a car are deeply based
in the community and present an extraordinary opportunity for a creative, visionary C3
organization. If we create a place where Eastern Iowans come routinely as drivers and car
owners, that will be the first place they come when looking to buy a new car (and the first place
dealers and private sellers will turn to advertise when selling). We will not only protect and
regain our business in auto classifieds, but we may have a chance to attract revenue (in particular
from video, mobile and local search) from repair shops, insurance agencies and companies, tire
stores and other businesses that may not advertise much in newspapers.
An effective content channel focused on driving would serve a variety of products. Of course, a
driving site (and possibly a print product drawing from the content) could be niche products,
providing the place to do all the jobs for drivers. But that content will feed several, if not all, of
the company's products. The content on traffic could be a staple of KCRG's morning show. A
weekly column in The Gazette might draw on a variety of information, reporting on progress of
construction projects and fluctuation of gas prices and highlighting a pothole of the week chosen
by the community. And, of course, the auto classifieds will remain important parts of The
Gazette and GazetteOnline, serving the people who still look for cars there and gaining new
momentum as sellers do more business with the vertical that serves drivers' everyday needs.
Iowa.com could have a whole driving section that would include all of this content, as well as
aggregating driving-related content from other sources. A Hawkeye site might draw from the
driving site for game-day traffic and parking information. (I won't run through the product
possibilities in each section of this blueprint, but product managers and product planners should
think through the possibilities in this way for each content area.)
Community-content opportunities: Home
Real estate advertising is a long-time staple for newspapers that is collapsing under pressure
from multiple directions. Real estate agents increasingly are reaching customers directly. Other
digital advertising sites are attracting some of the dwindling real estate advertising dollars. And
the turmoil in the housing and banking markets has slowed home sales.
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Newspapers historically have provided more useful content about homes to support the print
section housing real estate ads, at least on Sundays. But we haven't approached the possibilities
for providing day-in-day-out valuable information for homeowners.
As with cars, the principle here is to broaden the homes-related jobs that we already do for
homeowners and renters across the community as well as helping the businesses that want to
help people do those jobs. Most real-estate verticals do just two jobs: Help me find a home to
buy (or rent) or help me sell a home (or find a renter).
We must consider using answerbases, community engagement and other tools to expand our
real-estate vertical and do more jobs relating to people's homes. If people turn to us frequently
for the jobs that come with being a home owner, this will be the first place they look (and thus
the first place real estate agents will want to be seen) when they are ready to move to a larger or
smaller home. (Admittedly, many home buyers are just moving to the community, but an
effective site that people are using regularly will generate referrals from new co-workers. And if
these resources are part of a community answer center for newcomers, we will connect with new
people before they arrive, identifying us right away as the all-purpose answer source.)
As with driving, some of the best existing answerbases for home owners are typically found in a
news site's data center rather than in the real-estate vertical. We need to develop and present
answerbases that answer questions about such home-related issues as property taxes, property
records, property sales, property assessments, mortgage foreclosures, tax delinquencies,
contractor violations and annexation.
We need to develop a multipurpose answerbase like EveryBlock, The Washington Post's Local
Explorer and The Cincinnati Enquirer's CinciNavigator show how you can use one tool to search
multiple databases, answering a wide range of questions at the neighborhood or block level about
crime, schools, home sales, events, new businesses, recent news, restaurants and other nearby
businesses and attractions. Under the terms of the Knight Foundation grant that funded his
project, Adrian Holovaty will soon release the code for EveryBlock. Zack Kucharski and I have
already discussed the importance of bringing the EveryBlock approach to Cedar Rapids, Iowa
City and possibly across Eastern Iowa or statewide. When Holovaty releases the code, we need
to make this a top priority for Zack and our data team as well as for our IT staff.
Again, we need to follow the approach suggested for the driving vertical by engaging
homeowners in community forums where they can tell stories, swap advice and share pictures of
first homes, dream homes, remodeling projects, flood-recovery projects, landscaping projects
and so on. Using BlockTalk (our hyperlocal mapping tool using Newsgarden from Serra Media),
we can engage leaders of neighborhood associations, inviting them to engage with each other
and their members in blogs.
As with the driving vertical, real estate ads are not the only revenue source. We must enhance
our homes vertical by cross-referencing appropriate categories from iGuide. This helps both
products, providing another avenue into the iGuide and giving continuing value to the homes
vertical. As with driving, we could develop an emergency-services database, where contractors
available on short notice that day might register their availability. Or we could make this email-
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 13
driven: Instead of calling around for a plumber in an emergency, the home-owner enters an
address and we send out emails to plumbers (or whoever; it would be easy to send out notices by
category) who have asked to be notified of jobs in that part of town. Those who are available and
interested respond by an email that goes through our site. Businesses could pay either for the
leads or the actual jobs or, in a two-tiered fee structure, they might pay a small fee for the email
contact and a larger fee if they land the job.
Community-content opportunities: Conversation
The experience of MonroeTalks.com, detailed in Newspaper Next 2.0, shows the potential for
community conversation platforms. The Iowa.com iTalk section has barely begun to explore the
possibilities that the Complete Community Connection must pursue.
A community conversation platform needs to be engaging, with opportunities to post photos and
videos, with easy-to-follow directories and easy-to-use search windows to help users find the
niches and discussion threads that most interest them. We should offer blogs to people in the
community, organizing them by type -- community affairs, club news, family blogs, politics,
sports, neighborhoods, congregations, etc.
We should integrate our conversation content with BlockTalk, so people are able to quickly find
the conversation and news happening closest to them. While the content will be user-generated,
an editor (and/or software) should monitor to highlight new content and interesting content, so
the conversation constantly has a fresh look and keeps people coming back to see what's new.
Monitoring software should highlight the most popular discussions. Just as the small-town paper
for years paid stringers to supply chicken-dinner sorts of news, we might pay some local
discussion leaders to spur the conversation by frequently posing questions or posting some of
that chicken-dinner news online. The conversation site should present a host of targeting, search
and direct sales opportunities.
We should seek ways to encourage full, accurate identification of people in the community
conversation. We can do this multiple ways:
Bloggers will need to use their real names, subject to verification, and to complete
accurate user profiles.
We should News Mixer with its Facebook Connect interface, which will encourage
identification (of people who use real names on Facebook).
We will encourage users to register by name, giving more prominent placement to all
comments and other contributions from people who submit to a verification process.
We might seek some commercial sponsors for our efforts to encourage more
identification in public contributions. They would provide some sort of gift certificates or
other incentives for people who register and submit to verification of their identities.
We can develop two levels of user profiles: One completed by the user voluntarily (again,
we might use incentives) and whether the user completes a profile or not, we would
hyperlink every user's name to a collection of all his/her past comments, so you can view
each comment or other contribution in the context of all contributions from that user.
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Community-content opportunities: Calendar
The unified calendar we launched this year at Iowa.com, serving all our company products, has
barely begun to tap the possibilities of an interactive calendar. It's providing content on events
effectively, but the Complete Community Connection needs to pursue revenue possibilities.
An effective calendar will provide some strong paid search opportunities, but also some direct
sales opportunities, to sell tickets, make reservations and register participants directly online.
When users sign up for email reminders of events or email notices to friends, those emails need
to include targeted advertising. We use mapping to show the venues of events, but the map also
needs to locate restaurants and bars nearby (a targeted advertising opportunity that would help
you plan where to eat before the event or where to meet for a drink afterward). Our calendar
entries also need to grow, aggregating videos and news reports relevant to events.
Community-content opportunities: Local knowledge
An important aspect of the Complete Community Connection will be to develop the place where
people of our communities and perhaps across Iowa turn for answers to their questions about this
state and its communities: databases, community resources, services, history, unique aspects of
local life (attractions, institutions and events) and a user-generated encyclopedia of local
I have detailed the possibilities for databases in a separate report for Newspaper Next: Be the
Answer: Using interactive databases to provide answers and generate revenue. We will develop
databases to provide content throughout our digital products as well as to provide information we
would use in print and broadcast. Interactive databases would be the cornerstone of the a massive
answer center we would develop where people in the community could seek answers to nearly
any question at the state or community level.
Zack Kucharski is off to a strong start developing such an answer center in the Data Central
portion of GazetteOnline, providing answers about such matters as flood buyouts, Hawkeye
football history and salaries of government workers. We need to continue development of this
resource, both through answerbases we develop ourselves and through links to answerbases
provided elsewhere. For an in-depth look at the possibilities for anwerbases, read the full N2
report. (API charges $19.95 for the report; Gazette Communications staff who haven't read it can
see me for a copy.)
Some topics on which we need to develop answerbases (priorities and needs will vary for each
media organization; you need to provide information that's important to your community):
I have detailed the possibilities for databases in a separate report for Newspaper Next: Be the
Answer: Using interactive databases to provide answers and generate revenue. We will develop
databases to provide content throughout our digital products as well as to provide information we
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 15
would use in print and broadcast. Interactive databases would be the cornerstone of the a massive
answer center we would develop where people in the community could seek answers to nearly
any question at the state or community level.
Health (complaints against doctors, nursing home violations)
Business (development, executive salaries, building permits, professional licenses)
Politics (fact-checking, campaign contributions, candidates' positions on issues)
Local government (votes by elected officials, public property)
Public safety (meth busts, sexual assaults, drunk driving, motorcycle accidents)
Education (state test scores, school discipline, graduation rates)
Recreation (summer camps, eagle nests, boating safety, boat thefts)
This content differs from at least two other types of content that might also operate at the
neighborhood level: hyperlocal talk sites and news sites. These would be places you can go to
learn useful timely and evergreen information about your neighborhood. The content could
follow a combination of existing models such as Everyblock, Washingtonpost.com Local
Explorer and CinciNavigator (described already in the section on homes) and Jacqueline
DuPree's JDLand's Southeast Washington, D.C., development site.
Local Explorer, CinciNavigator and Everyblock are great examples of how we should be able to
assemble and present databases to provide lots of answers on the neighborhood level - crime,
schools, home sales, services, restaurants, local calendar, local news, basic local info, local
photographs, permits, etc.
JDLand is a great example of using citizen journalists to present the information that many of
them already are gathering out of self-interest. This site is more sophisticated than most will be,
because of DuPree's skill as a professional journalist in her day job for the Washington Post and
because she happens to live in a neighborhood that's undergoing such dramatic change. But lots
of neighborhoods have activists, busybodies and gadflies with similar passions whom we can
recruit and provide a forum to build rich, lively, detailed neighborhood sites.
Especially in neighborhoods rebuilding after the flood, connections to neighborhoods are strong
in the communities we cover and we can provide forums and tools for people to compile and
share information. Depending on the neighborhood or the source, we may bring some of these
folks onto our sites as participants or we may link to their independent sites. Either way, we
become the place to find all the neighborhood resources.
We will need to brand our own content separately from the user-generated content, and to
provide ways for the community to rate the credibility of the content.
Between the iGuide and annual publications such as Explore and Discover, we already compile a
great amount of information to help people with the needs and chores of daily life. We want to
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 16
compile and provide information and services that will be valuable to newcomers to our region
as well as to longtime residents. We need to tell how to get your driver's license, start utilities,
start the newspaper, find schools and places of worship and so on. Where you can do this online,
we must help you do that right from our site or connect you to the agency's site. We have to
become the place to connect with services in the community. Of course, a print version of this
will have value as well, but the digital version will always be current.
As we develop products from this content, we need to offer abundant opportunities here for
search, direct sales, self-serve advertising and targeted advertising. If we develop the place
people connect when they are coming into the community or changing their level of involvement
in the community (for instance, when you develop a new interest or your children reach school
age), we have tremendous lead-generation opportunities. We can provide one place to start your
paper, hook up your power, register children for schools, etc., collecting fees from the businesses
and schools. And it's such a useful tool that you keep coming back as long as you live in the
We have long called newspapers the "first rough draft of history." We need to dig up the
historical work we've already done on important events and anniversaries for Cedar Rapids and
other communities, presenting .
For instance, the full content of the "Epic Surge" book and DVD and the Iowa City tornado book
should be part of the history section, along with the Gazette's 125th anniversary issue. We can
present the archive on topics or issues in town. We can make this a wiki, too, inviting each faith
community, school or civic group and neighborhood association to post its own history or asking
for people's remembrances of big events in the community or of the community's experience in
big national or world events. Whether we write them ourselves or invite community members to
write them, we need histories of the communities and neighborhoods most impacted by the
flooding -- Czech Village, Time Check, Palo, etc.
Much of this content can draw on our archives. For instance, we might not immediately write
histories of important local companies such as Rockwell Collins, AEGON or Quaker Oats, or
they might not provide their own histories. But at the least, we can compile links to important
stories we have written through the years about those companies. Even where we do have current
histories, the archives will let people get more information and spend more time digging through
Maybe we don't have huge revenue opportunities in compiling the community history, but we
might have some targeted advertising opportunities. And we can do direct sales of books relating
to community history, tickets to museums, etc. Even if we don't develop strong revenue from
this, the audience we build here, by adding to our image as the source for all answers and
information about Iowa and its communities, builds audience for the more lucrative parts of the
Attractions, events and institutions
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 17
The Tacoma News Tribune's Mount Rainier guide, Cape Cod Times tourism guide and Orange
County Register beach guide provide several strong models for us to follow in becoming the
authority on our local attractions, institutions and events. We can do this in partnership with or in
competition with the attractions and institutions themselves and the organizations sponsoring the
We already produce lots of content about these attractions, events and institutions. Instead of
getting one day's value out of that content, we need to aggregate it, add to it and organize
everything into a community resource that provides easily searchable answers to everything you
want to know about this attraction, event or institution. Our database on Hawkeye football
history and dining guide are examples of the kind of content we want to develop here. Topics or
institutions on which we would want to develop deep, detailed resources might include the
University of Iowa (and parts of the university, such as the Writers Workshop and Hawkeye
sports teams), Amana Colonies, Hoover birth site, Iowa caucuses, Rockwell Collins, Quaker
Oats, the Czech and Slovak Museum and African American Museum.
Of course, with all of this, we should start with our core communities and the region where our
brand is the strongest, but Iowa.com gives us a brand with statewide potential and this is
certainly an example of an area where we could expand into statewide content.
The revenue possibilities here are extensive: selling tickets to events and attractions as well as
reservations for nearby lodging; selling books, DVDs and other informational items, whether we
produce them or retail them for the attractions themselves; selling memorabilia, logo clothing
and so on.
Wikipedia has had some credibility issues, but it presents a lot of accurate information that is
useful to a lot of people and we can apply the same model on the local/state level. We will need
to address some labeling and credibility issues so that we present the "collective wisdom" (which
sometimes is the collective ignorance) separately from the authoritative, verified information we
compile. We would require only users whose identification has been verified to contribute to this
wiki. We need to design it so that contributions are attributed to people, linking to their profiles
citing their claimed credentials (and the model would allow participants to challenge or support
the credentials of people who were being unduly boastful or modest).
We should prime the pump here, inviting known experts on topics or officials of organizations to
start entries in their areas of expertise.
Personal content and connection
A longtime contradiction of life in the news business has been that we ignore or downplay the
biggest news in the lives of the people we serve. If someone in your family graduates, gets
married, has a baby, dies or has a major illness or surgery, that's the biggest news of the year in
your family and often in a broader circle of friends and co-workers.
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 18
As I wrote in an earlier blog post, the biggest news in my family now is my nephew Patrick's
battle with leukemia (it looks like he'll be ready to be released soon from a Boston hospital after
six weeks hospitalized for a bone transplant). In other recent years, major news for our family
was a son's wedding or graduation, a niece's baby or my surgery.
Some of these events that are huge news in small circles don't even appear in the newspaper and
won't make the evening news on TV. Some will be a line of agate in the paper or a formulaic
announcement or obituary. Digital versions are usually little more than the same text (and photo,
if a photo was even used) that we provided in the paper. The possibilities for community
connection, personal storytelling and revenue generation around personal content are great and
community news organizations need to recognize and develop these possibilities.
We are early in the history of social networking and we need to develop at the local level the
kind of platforms that Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other social networks are developing
on a global level. Sometimes we will interface with existing global networking platforms, as on
our Facebook page and adding Twitter feeds, but more and more we will develop community
networks, doing the local connection jobs that we've always done with other tools and doing new
connection jobs that were not possible before. Others are already entering this space and we need
to pursue it swiftly. We can't know now all the ways we can or need to serve the community
through personal content. If we wait to see all the possibilities unfold, we will be too late.
Life's milestones, big events and different stages are a way to connect with people in the
community and beyond, adding content that is newsy today but gains lasting value. In general,
the approach for each milestone will be multi-tiered for both content and revenue. We need to
offer a basic web page to celebrate the event (preferably another branch of the site we already
have with this person, but if not, this should be the first of many). In each case, we would offer
the basic site, with options for automated messages to family and friends, user-generated content,
gift registries, direct venue and/or hotel reservations. We also could offer some upsells on the
site that would make the design much cooler and personalized for a fee.
We need to develop the tools and opportunities to generate revenue from personal content on
Direct sales opportunities of gifts, flowers, reservations, etc.
Targeted advertising based on the event or life stage itself.
Targeted advertising based on what we know about the person from previous activities,
preferences and information registered.
Customized products such as a four-page newspaper with a person's graduation or
retirement as the lead news story, with supporting stories and pictures provided by the
family and friends.
Cradle-to-grave observance of big occasions can be a huge opportunity for building audience and
generating revenue that we barely tap now. Other solutions are already operating in some of
these spaces, but they often are not community-based solutions and we can offer solutions with
local connections and other benefits that will help us be disruptive. In other cases, these are
"blue-ocean" opportunities where we can build audience with little or no competition.
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 19
News has always been our core job. We need to take advantage of new technology and new
social tools to help people make a big deal of each event. We can become the place where people
find out what's happening with people they care about in the community, where they celebrate,
worry and mourn. And many of these events are occasions of big spending that we can
We need to pursue opportunities for personal content and connection in a lot of areas:
Jobs, pets, health, food
Personal-content opportunities: Births
Births are huge personal news and they are spending occasions. More important, this is an
opportunity for the Complete Community Connection to connect with a family.
We should provide the baby's first web page, created automatically upon the blessed event. We
should give hospitals gift packets of samples and coupons we have collected from businesses in
the community for diapers, child care, formula, etc. The packet includes an invitation to the
parents to use the baby's new web site. (If they don't within a week or two, we send email and/or
snail mail invitations.) We prepopulate the baby's web site with the basic public-record data:
Name, date and time born, parents' names. We invite the parents to add to it: photos, videos, gift
registry, family comments, milestones such as teeth, crawling and first haircut, links to siblings',
cousins' and friends' pages. This becomes the digital baby book, sharing the infant's story with
family and friends around the world and connecting those friends and family to our content
network, their convenient way to buy gifts for this child again and again.
Adding to the baby's page involves registration, which gives us leads to sell to businesses in the
community that cater to parents of children (and the cast of businesses changes as the child
grows up). With registration, we have email addresses to use to remind parents to update
periodically with baby photos. A month or so before each birthday, we send out email reminders
to update the gift registry. We don't generate content for this site beyond launching it and
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 20
sending occasional automatic reminders. But the family makes it part of our content collection
that tells more and more about the community. The aggregate birth effort generates leads for
business customers and allows us to sell gifts from our business customers directly to family and
friends not just in our community but around the world.
We also might be able to sell our own products directly to the family. For instance, we could sell
the parents a custom-printed keepsake newspaper of the day the baby was born, with the birth as
the lead story, using copy and photos from the family and filling out with the real news of the
day. On the baby's first birthday, we offer a newspaper using the content posted during the year
(presuming the family has posted enough content). Or maybe we sell a DVD of the photos and
videos posted to the site, with a sound track of songs the family chooses or of the family's
recording of the baby's babbling, first words, etc.
Our goal is to make this the child's web page for life, a site that grows with the child, providing
fresh user-generated content and sales opportunities. We allow distant grandparents, aunts and
uncles to receive email or text notification (a promising advertising vehicle) about milestones
such as first tooth, first word, etc. when the parents fill them in.
With each of these personal-content areas, we need to watch for possibilities with our packaged
products. Would an annual or quarterly "community baby book" section for The Gazette have
possibilities? Or an occasional feature on best baby video clips on KCRG? Or would we give
parents an opportunity to check off on posting baby pictures to a gallery of Iowa baby photos on
Iowa.com? I won't go through the product possibilities in each of the personal content areas, but
I encourage product managers and planners to explore them.
With this as well as with other milestones, especially for children, we need to consider giving
parents a way to limit access to content. Perhaps as with Facebook, we would offer a limited
public profile, with more information available only to chosen family and friends who have the
password. Or maybe parents would have the option to make personal content all password-
protected. We also need to give parents the ability to opt out and remove a baby's page if they
don't want to participate. But the offers from businesses should give most parents plenty of
incentive to participate.
Personal-content opportunities: Growing-up milestones
For children already in our site, the milestones of childhood and youth will present gift-giving
opportunities and content-generation opportunities. For children who aren't yet in our network,
these are opportunities to engage them.
We should promote our child web pages through churches, synagogues, mosques, temples,
schools, day care centers, preschools, business customers and our own products. So we expand
existing pages and generate new pages for children to celebrate the first day of school, first
Communion, baptism, confirmation, bar or bat mitzvah, quinceañera, Eagle Scout court of honor,
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 21
Many of these milestones present revenue opportunities for C3 and opportunities to connect
consumers and businesses. For gift-giving occasions, we need to offer gift registries. For party
occasions, we can generate leads or sell actual products or make reservations for invitation
printers, party venues, florists, dress shops or whatever is appropriate. For 16th birthday, we offer
We let families decide whether we can sell (or they can sell) co-op advertising space on their
pages. We can let them restrict their pages to a certain type of advertisers or bar certain types.
We can sell the advertising inventory of agreeable families and a cut goes into a college fund for
(This might be an issue we have to address in several aspects of personal content. If people are
going to engage and provide personal content, we might want to give them a financial stake in
their page, giving them a portion of revenue generated from the page. As we do this, though, we
need to watch out for pitfalls, such as creating incentives for people to produce false or skewed
Personal-content opportunities: School
Our network can be the place where schools connect with the community.
We can give each student a password-protected web page, where teachers' homework
assignments are posted automatically, so parents can check what the assignments are and remind
their children to get it done (and Mom and Dad can watch the kid upload the finished
assignment, so it doesn't ride around for a week in a backpack). We can develop resources to
help students with their classes, links to the community information we develop as well as to
other valuable resources provided elsewhere.
We should get the back-to-school supply lists for each class and post them automatically to the
appropriate web pages, along with ads (or online order forms) from merchants. Parents can sign
up to receive the supply lists by email (with links to the online order forms) as soon as they are
available. Instead of crowding the aisles with other parents looking for notebooks, markers and
lunch boxes, parents could order it all online from their own web page for delivery to their
homes. Teachers' and classmates' birthdays would be posted to the web page, too, along with gift
registries and/or ads.
When students register (through their web page in our network) for sports, band and other
activities, their web pages will be updated automatically with equipment, instruments and music
books they will need, along with ads (and direct-purchase opportunities) from sporting-goods
stores and music stores. And, of course, parents get offers to buy tickets, join the booster club
and schedule their hours in the concession stand.
Each team (school teams and youth sports teams) or activity (band, speech, drama, science club,
whatever) would get its own site, too (with links on the youths' home pages). There we will have
practice and game schedules, rosters, individual photos, stats, team blogs, trash-talk forums,
videos and photos shot by parents, etc. We'll have some merchandising opportunities, such as
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 22
customized team newspapers, player cards or an end-of-the-season DVD with parent-shot video
clips from each game (supplemented by our own video, when our staff has shot their games). For
state tournaments and other distant road games, we'll provide opportunities for booking hotels,
making dinner reservations and other travel arrangements.
Whether we're talking about teacher conferences, homework, activities, schedule changes,
weather closings or report cards, we can give parents options about how they want to receive
information - text message, automated phone call, automatic posting to the web page, RSS feed,
direct mail, email, Twitter, Facebook update.
Schools facing a budget pinch (that would be all of them), might welcome the opportunity to
outsource and improve their communication functions. We need to explore whether we could
collect a fee for taking on this work or whether we take the work on free and make our money by
connecting the parents and students with businesses in the community at just the right times.
Personal-content opportunities: Graduation
Unfortunately, we didn't get this effort launched for 2009, but we need to make sure that we start
early enough to make it happen for the Class of 2010.
Newspapers spend a fair amount of time and ink (and pixels) in our core products on graduation
coverage, sending photographers and reporters to ceremonies and printing up special sections
with names and photos of grads. As newsprint prices have risen, we can't afford to devote as
much space to all the photos and lists of names as we used to. But we can devise a better way to
recognize the achievements of graduates, who spend much of their lives in the digital world
Newspaper staffs can channel that work of gathering photos and names into more valuable uses
and put the users to work making graduation coverage deeper and richer. We should get the lists
and photos of area seniors at the start of the spring semester, and turn them into a database of the
Class of 2010. Each student gets his or her own page, where we invite them to add college or
career plans, school activities, parents' names, favorite teachers, high school highlights and their
own photos, videos and stories of their high school days. We make each site interactive, with a
place for friends and families to add their reminiscences and best wishes.
This can be a tremendous audience-builder as proud parents send links out across the country,
bringing grandparents, relatives and friends to our graduation pages.
Are there possibilities for mischief here? Of course. High school seniors and their friends are a
mischievous lot. Some friends (or adversaries) will want to add their true, wished-for,
exaggerated or maliciously false stories of drunkenness, drug use and sexual exploits to the
sentimental memories on the site. We can control this (here and in other interactive parts of the
network) in at least a couple ways:
Require verified registration before allowing comments or posting of photos or videos.
Mischief is much more likely to happen anonymously. With verified registration, we not
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 23
only deter the mischief, we can block the undeterred mischief makers from posting again.
(And in the registration process, we collect information about our users that will be
valuable in targeting ads or in generating leads for advertisers.
Enable users to call our attention to objectionable content, so mischief will be removed
Beyond the immediate audience-building value of making coverage of the Class of 2010
memorable and interactive, this approach will give us a chance to identify our network as the
place for these graduates (many of whom are scattering but will always have an emotional
connection to the community) to reconnect with their hometown.
Each senior's web site will include a gift registry, from which area merchants can sell gifts
directly to distant grandparents, aunts and uncles. We'll need to contact university book stores
and other merchants in Iowa City, Ames, Cedar Falls and perhaps other college towns and sell
them targeted advertising on the pages of seniors heading to their schools. When a student fills in
the "college plans" field on his page, ads from businesses around the school appear on the
senior's page. We mght be able to sell the college-town merchants leads, emailing them a link
each time a senior lists their college as his or her destination or asking families if we can forward
contact information to campus-area businesses and services.
If the senior isn't going to college, but fills in the "career plans" field, we'll ask whether the
student wants to receive email alerts, RSS feeds or text alerts when recruitment ads in the field
We need to let relatives visiting for commencement book lodging and rental cars from local
hotels and agencies. We offer parents, graduates and others a chance to order a DVD or print
version of the graduation photo gallery. Or maybe we can offer a personalized four-page
newspaper about their graduate, using material they submit under our masthead.
Personal-content opportunities: College life
College life may be one of the biggest challenges for a media company to develop personal
content as part of a Complete Community Connection approach. Lots of other sites are already
providing college students opportunities for their own pages, whether on MySpace, Facebook
or personal blogs. But we shouldn't concede this group. Swocol provides a model for starting to
connect college students in the communities or regions where they are attending school.
As mentioned in the graduation section, we can develop advertising and lead-generation
possibilities with college bookstores and other merchants around campuses. These opportunities
continue throughout college. Students can have standing and special-occasion gift registries,
where parents can buy gift certificates, care packages and finals-week treats.
As mentioned in the section on assumptions, don't assume that this is something we would do in
competition with college media organizations. This might provide a perfect opportunity for
partnerships, internships and a new model for cooperation. We should also explore the
possibilites of working with, rather than competing with, Facebook. Whether we use Facebook
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 24
groups, use Facebook Connect on our own sites or help local businesses connect with students on
Facebook, the right approach might be using the platform where college students already spend
much of their time.
Personal-content opportunities: Military service
When National Guard and Reserve units from our communities are deployed, the Complete
Community Connection should provide personal pages telling the stories of the units and the
In addition, we can provide the hometown link for Iowa troops who are scattered to various
bases here and abroad. We start the page with the basic information: name, rank, unit,
hometown. And we invite the sevicemember and his or her family and friends to fill in the rest:
photos, videos, stories, personal interests, etc.
As with other areas of personal content, we have commercial opportunities, especially when
people are deployed. Family, friends, supportive individuals and congregations and civic groups
in the community can contribute to buy care packages from local businesses, which will ship
them overseas. We should report when people are returning on leave or when deployments are
ending and family, friends and community members can buy all or parts of rest-and-recreation
gift packages -- weekend at a local hotel or resort, spa or golf package, dinner gift certificate, etc.
We need to develop a lead-generation model for veterans' organizations, alerting them to military
people whose hitches are ending, so they can advertise on the page or contact the person directly.
When local service members become casualties -- injured, missing or killed -- coverage from the
news site would be posted on their pages (unless the family chooses to exclude news coverage).
The page becomes a place for distant relatives, friends and supporters to keep updated on a
soldier's recovery or express their grief at a family's loss.
Personal-content opportunities: Weddings
Weddings are an excellent example of how newspapers' sense of news is way out of whack with
the people in the community and how we miss out on big news and revenue opportunities
because of the blinders of our current business model.
The blinders hurt us on both the content and revenue sides. Weddings, engagements and
anniversaries aren't big news for newspapers because they happen so many times each year in the
life of the community. If we make a big deal of one, we'll have to make a big deal out of them
all, so we bury them inside the paper and handle them by format. Well, they all are big deals and
each is unique and memorable. Each wedding is one of the biggest news stories of the year in the
circle of people attending. And we can make each of them a big deal in our network.
Each wedding in the community deserves its own multi-level web site. We need to start seizing
this content (and its revenue opportunities).
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 25
St. Louis Best Bridal provides a good starting model but we need to go further. Iowa Bridal
Planner barely begins to touch the possibilities for networking and commerce related to
weddings. In addition to events and printed bridal planning guides, we need to become a place
where people share their experiences: a mix of features and advice about weddings and user-
generated content such as romantic moments, wedding disasters, funny moments, cute-kid stories
from weddings, worst-bridesmaid-dress contests and how-to discussions.
We should offer a directory of businesses that help with the jobs to be done around weddings.
This would be a multi-level directory, connecting with the iGuide. Just to have useful content,
we should list basic information (address, phone, hours, web site, map) for every florist, dress
shop, etc. in the community. We should offer the businesses an opportunity to pay for enhanced
listings on multiple levels, including preferred placement and lead generation.
We need to offer web sites for each couple, linked to from the main wedding page and easily
searchable. The couple's site includes not just the engagement announcement, but lots of
opportunities for user-generated content: how the couple met, their song, a quiz about the couple,
information about the event.
We need to offer direct help with some of the logistical details about the wedding. For instance,
the couple should be able to reserve a block of rooms at a local hotel directly from our web site
(with opportunities for guests to reserve and confirm rooms directly). We need a more interactive
and helpful online wedding planner, where brides can check out venues using virtual reality
photography, choose their tuxes, preview dresses (of course, they'll need to go out and try them
on, but they can do some online shopping to narrow the list of shops they want to try in person).
When couples start their wedding page, they would agree in the registration process that we can
provide information about them to vendors (we might give them multiple levels, so they can
choose which types of vendors they want to hear from). This is a powerful lead-generation
opportunity for an event on which couples spend tons of money. We can provide a gift registry
from which family and friends (many of them people from outside the community who wouldn't
spend money here unless we give them the opportunity) can buy gifts online for direct delivery
to the couple.
We also might collect contact information from the buyers and email them before the first
anniversary, offering a new chance to buy gifts. We could offer the couple a newspaper and/or a
DVD about the couple's childhood, adolescence and courtship, using photos and stories posted at
their web site.
As with many areas of personal content, we need to extend these services through multiple
products: Iowa Bridal Planner, of course, but also The Gazette's Milestones section as well as
events and special sections or magazines. We also need to look for opportunities to provide
solutions for services such as reservations and gift registries directly ourselves and where we
need to partner with businesses already providing those solutions. For instance, we could get
paid on a click-through basis when family or friends click into a department store's gift registry
from our site. But we could develop our own registry tool for smaller community-based shops
and there we collect the money for the sale and collect a larger fee from the vendor.
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 26
Personal-content opportunities: Parenthood
One of the best successes of newspaper companies in developing niche products has been web
sites (and sometimes related publications) targeting mothers.
Gannett led the way with local "Moms" sites that evolved into the national site, MomsLikeMe.
Other companies, including Cox and McClatchy, launched their own local sites. The Newspaper
Next 2.0 report profiled the Cox projects focusing on moms in Ohio and Rich Gordon of
Northwestern University wrote a case study of the IndyMoms project that launched Gannett's
effort. Because this topic has been examined thoroughly, I won't elaborate on it much here,
though I affirm that media companies need to target moms in their efforts to become the
Complete Community Connection.
Two points I would emphasize:
We need to sell products directly to moms for business customers. We need to register
kids directly for activities.
We should consider whether we could draw the same sort of audiences with dads, again
with content and revenue working together.
Personal-content opportunities: Divorce
Divorce is a life stage that obviously isn't an opportunity for a celebration site, similar to weddings or
But it's a big change when people have lots of jobs to be done and lots of new situations for which local
businesses will want to connect with them. We should offer a site providing links (with opportunities for
the business or organization to buy enhanced links) to counselors, lawyers, support groups, singles
groups, churches, credit counselors.
We also can offer discussion opportunities for people experiencing divorce. We can offer multiple layers,
with general content and services for anyone going through divorce and specialized content by gender and
circumstances (custodial, non-custodial and joint-custody parents, hostile or amicable divorces, first-
timers and multiple divorces).
In addition to the targeted advertising opportunities, this aspect of community connection may provide
some lead-generation opportunities for the businesses listed above as well as real estate agents, landlords,
car dealers and possibly other businesses who serve people who are starting anew. We might have some
email opportunities -- a template the divorcing person can use to send the news, along with new contact
information, details and whatever, to family, friends and creditors.
Of course, the circumstances of divorce present some situations that might lead to malicious comments
online, so in this format, we might reverse our trend to encourage or require identification and encourage
or require use of fictitious screen names in discussion forums.
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 27
Personal-content opportunities: Jobs, health, pets, food, interests
The Complete Community Connection should not limit its personal content to the stages of life. We
should develop personal content in areas that cross many different ages and stages.
In the community content section, I discussed the possibilities of developing sites used daily (or at least
frequently) by drivers and home-owners, as vehicles to strengthen the traditional verticals of homes and
cars. The jobs vertical may be harder to develop such a site, but we could present advice and discussion
threads on work issues and career planning, a database of average salaries and wages for various jobs in
our community, a cost-of-living comparison calculator for relocating workers, etc.
We could start other verticals along the same model, such as health, pets, hobbies and food. These topics
can have some general community-type content, such as the current food sections of The Gazette and
GazetteOnline. But they need to be personal as well, with people exchanging family recipes (and the
personal stories behing them), pet photos and so on.
Personal-content opportunities: Illness
As I wrote a couple of months ago, illness was a staple of the small-town newspaper where I
started in this business. It also is an opportunity for the Complete Community Connection.
When someone is hospitalized or at home recovering from an illness or homebound with an
extended or terminal illness, we need to give them a web page (or a part of their existing page) to
keep people posted on how they're doing. They could enter their hospital and the page would
automatically post visiting hours.
Friends and family members could enter updates after visiting. Distant friends and families (or
those not close enough to visit) could enter well wishes. Families wanting to protect the privacy
of the ailing family member could make their page password-protected, so they would be
updating only their own circle of caring people (this might be a feature offered in lots of the
personal-content areas, such as the military or graduation).
Of course, we would offer opportunities to order flowers, balloons, teddy bears, etc. from
hospital gift shops, florists, etc. For those hardship cases where people set up donation funds to
help with health-care costs, we offer the opportunity to make online contributions. Hospitals and
health-care providers might see this as a good place for targeted advertising, too.
In that earlier blog post, I wriote about CaringBridge, a national site already performing the
service of keeping family and friends updated about people with illnesses. In other areas where I
am discussing personal content, national or global services already exist -- Legacy for obituaries,
weddingwindow and the knot for weddings, etc. Our approach to those services may vary. In
some cases, we might seek a partnership, where we could use the framework already developed
and add some value at the community level. In other cases, we might develop a better solution
and compete with the national business. We need to be open to both possibilities and seek to
develop the best solutions for our communities, rather than locking into a single approach. In our
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 28
view of competition and partnerships as well as our internal view, we need to remain consistent
in separating content from product.
Personal-content opportunities: Empty nesters
Another life stage where the Complete Community Connection can provide rich content and
pursue new revenue opportunities is the empty nest.
We can help empty nesters build maps showing where the children have scattered, so you can
click and open windows for each offspring, with information and photos of in-laws,
grandchildren, etc. Another map could track the empty nesters' travels. They could compile wish
lists of things to do before they retire, with gift registries so family and friends can use birthdays,
holidays and anniversaries to help their dreams come true. When they register, they would fill
out their interests, so we can email advice and advertising to help with health, travel, hobbies and
Personal-content opportunities: Retirement
Retirement may not be a fertile market with today's retirees, who tend to prefer print and
broadcast to digital communication. But Baby Boomers are starting to retire and the Complete
Community Connection should develop personal-content platforms to serve them.
Boomers have spent decades working on computers and are comfortable with the web. We can
observe their retirements with the same mix of content and revenue that we use for other life
stages: written recollections and photos of the career, showing fashions of the '60s, expanding
waistlines, rising and falling hemlines, receding hairlines, etc. We need to offer coworkers and
children the opportunity to buy customized newspapers and/or DVDs celebrating the career.
We can offer gift registries, travel registrations, targeted advertising to retirement communities,
golf courses, travel agencies, fishing outfitters, gardening stores, non-profit agencies seeking
The retirement sites would help snowbirds keep in touch with their summer community while
they're down south (and help family and friends in either community keep in touch when they're
Personal-content opportunities: Reunions
Reunions are another event that's big news in small circles that the Complete Community
Connection needs to pursue.
Families, graduating classes, military units, fraternities, sororities and other groups need to get
web pages or social networks to keep members posted on reunions and other events. When they
register an event, prompts will guide them in sending automated emails to members (sponsored
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 29
by local businesses interested in reaching the kind of group that's gathering), booking and
mapping the venue(s), offering members blocks of room and reservation opportunities.
When the group enters the names of members, we can match them against our database of
registered users and send automatic email notifications, RSS feeds, text messages or whatever
notification people have asked for when they registered. We can offer our people-finding
databases to help find group members whose whereabouts are unknown.
In addition to the direct sales opportunities, the nature of the group will provide some targeted
advertising opportunities. Again, this presents lots of opportunities for posting user-generated
content: then-and-now photos, remembrances, updates on career and family, regrets and
greetings from those unable to attend.
Personal-content opportunities: Holidays
Holiday shopping has always been big business for newspapers and television. The Complete
Community Connection can make it bigger.
For Christmas, birthday, anniversaries, Valentine's, Mother's Day, Father's Day and any other
gift-giving occasion, we could offer targeted advertising on personal web sites, tailored to the
demographics and interests we know about those people. We could offer opportunities to post
gift registries, so Santa and distant relatives can do their shopping online, knowing that they are
giving exactly what the loved one wants. We could help people book rooms for visiting relatives.
We could remind people of upcoming events. Every couple registered with us would receive
emails reminding them to register gift suggestions for their spouse before anniversaries,
Valentine's, birthday, etc. Each personal web site would give friends and family an opportunity
to register to receive email, RSS or text reminders of birthdays, anniversaries or to receive
notification when the loved one has entered a gift registry in advance of a holiday.
We could develop a charitable gift exchange, where people in need could enter their needs
(perhaps validated by local charities) and others could order Christmas gifts, perhaps offered at a
discount by local businesses.
Personal-content opportunities: Memorials
Obituaries are not a one-day story. They are the final account of a person's life. Whether the
newspaper writes its own obituary or publishes one submitted by the family or funeral home, that
should be just the start. The Complete Community Connection needs to provide opportunities for
deeper personal content.
The dearly departed should get her own memorial page (linked to the page on our site that she
had in life, if she had one), where family members can add remembrances, photos and videos.
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 30
We can offer chances to order flowers directly from the web site, delivered either to the family
home or the funeral home. We could contract with major charities such as community
foundations, American Cancer Society and American Heart Association to collect memorial
donations. We could offer local hotels a chance to offer discount rooms to mourners coming to
town on short notice. We could offer mapping to show the route from hotels to churches, funeral
homes and the cemetery.
We could offer local organizations such as the American Legion, churches and civic groups
opportunities to sign up for email notifications when members' obituaries are posted. We can
keep the obituaries online forever as part of our searchable archive and as a digital memorial.
C3’s entertainment opportunities
Entertainment has always been an underrated part of newspaper content. But every editor who
changes crossword puzzle syndicates or drops a comic strip knows that entertainment is a valued
and essential part of newspaper content. And, of course, entertainment remains an essential
consumer use of television content, though not on the local level.
As the Complete Community Connection develops our network for the future, we need to keep
entertainment in mind in a variety of ways.
For all our commitment to news, the first thing lots of newspaper readers turn to is the comics.
And some of them spend more time with the crossword or Sudoku than they spend with the
whole rest of the paper. We should explore ways to deepen the digital experience with this sort
of traditional entertainment content. We should watch for opportunities to feature new
syndicated visual and interactive content, such as computer animations or animated comic strips.
Puzzles have already migrated online, but we might see how they can be enhanced. Can we list
the 10 fastest people to solve today's Sudoku, for instance, or let users record and graph their
own individual times each day, or post a widget for people who want to tweet their Sudoku time
We might aggregate some syndicated humor columns or find a local humor blogger (or a few) to
feature. This might be primarily an audience-builder, supported by general advertising. But of
course we should explore opportunities for alternate revenue streams.
Entertainment news will operate on multiple products: Hoopla, The Gazette's Accent section,
KCRG and Iowa.com. We need to provide previews and reviews (staff and user) of local
concerts, comedy clubs and plays. We need to offer frequent user polls, identifying best
entertainment opportunities of the coming weekend, best shows of the weekend past, etc. In
addition to archiving reviews from our staff and freelancers, we should build a strong section of
user-generated reviews of new movies, books and music, far beyond what we can review with
Complete Community Connection, Steve Buttry, Gazette Communications Page 31
our staff. We might have a running contest or drawing that selects the featured user to review
each new release or show.
We also could feature MP3s of local bands, both free as promotions and opportunities to buy
whole albums. This could be modeled after the local MP3 catalog at Spokane7 or the central
Minnesota Jam.MN site of the St. Cloud Times. This will have strong revenue possibilities, not
just with entertainment-oriented advertising, but with opportunities for direct sales of tickets and
Of course we'll want videos to be a big part of this, probably with a YouTube interface (so you
can be one of the zillions of videos on YouTube, but possibly be the featured video locally). We
need to make this dynamic, letting users choose the video of the day, with prizes sponsored by
advertisers. Maybe we develop a model where advertisers post pre-roll and post-roll ads that
users can choose to add to their videos. The user gets a small share of the ad revenue (to
encourage them to use the ads). We could encourage advertisers to develop different kinds of ads
- funny, touching, dramatic, inspiring - and let the users rate the ads.
We also want to feature other kinds of user creativity -- creative writing (fiction, essay, poetry),
humor writing, cartoons, computer animation, photography, fun with Photoshop.
We might launch some local "reality shows" that would be a combination of videos, local events,
online interaction and user voting. For instance, an "Iowa Idol" competition could select the
person who will sing the national anthem for the July 4 home game of the Kernels or for a
Hawkeye football or basketball game. We start with online videos of contestants, then the
finalists compete at an event in a local auditorium. This might provide some local programming
for KCRG, especially with the opportunities provided by the conversion to digital.
We need to explore the possibilities of online games at the community level: Tournaments of
local players of national games are certainly a possibility (funded either by entry fees or
sponsorships or both). We could feature locally developed games. Eventually we could have a
game developer on staff, so we could feature games such as Sim-CR, a virtual Iowa version of
Monopoly or sports games featuring the Hawkeyes.
We could host local fantasy leagues during various sports seasons. We could host online games
and tournaments for Boomers and retired people using more traditional games such as chess,
Scrabble or card games.
In addition to featuring our staff's predictions each weekend during the football season, we could
have a contest to find the best local prognosticator, with a prize at the end of the season.
C3’s business connection services