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Facebook is a local news 'frienemy'

Jeff Reifman is known to the geek/tech world as one of the people who helped track down Wired Magazine writer Evan Ratliff. How’d he do it? By launching a Facebook application.

And why did Reifman have the expertise to develop such an application? By leading a research project that anyone interested in local news should be following.

The best part of the project (funded by the Knight Foundation) is that it has produced research and technology. The research published so far suggests that integrating news with social platforms like Facebook will increase young people’s awareness, interest and participation. (See http://newcloud.com/research for more findings.)

At first, local media viewed Facebook as the enemy distracting their audience from the important content of news. Lately, having a Facebook page and a few hundred or thousand fans has been the strategy of the day. It’s not enough. Local media should be using the platform to build relationships with an audience while also working on monetizing that social audience.

The technology, now an open source application called Newscloud that anyone can deploy, is most easily seen on a site Reifman launched in his hometown of Seattle called The Needle. It’s a social news gathering spot disguised as a local news site and is one of many test beds for the application. (See The Evolution of Community Newspapers in the Age of Twitter and Facebook for the complete story.)

“Facebook is a big opportunity,” Reifman told me via email. “Local
news publishers can build community loyalty by offering value-added
features that our open source application and the Facebook platform is
designed to provide.”

Newscloud features such non-traditional news sections as “Things,” “Ideas,” “Talk” and “Twitter Room” and comes with Google Ad Manager integration for monetizing the audience. Read more about the technology here and follow developments on Twitter at @newscloud as Reifman says more updates will be coming soon.

(Note: I cleaned up Reifman’s quote a bit from the original post. – M.B.)

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