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« BzzAgent and Creative Commons - a cultural chasm | Main | Charging for Media Streams from Live Events and Live Blogging »

May 3, 2005

Backfence Local Social Media

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Posted by Ross Mayfield

A high profile experiment for the low end of media launched today in The classic problem of local media is the cost of production relative to the scale of distribution. You can’t send reporters to every Little League game and only a subset of the local community is interested in the coverage. MSM doesn’t touch this untapped segment. Apply a little social software to enable participatory journalism and you could get local social media — changing not only the economics of production and distribution, tap the edge between local classifieds and yellow pages — but fulfilling our needs to efficiently participate in local community.

That’s the promise, anyway. I had a chance to meet the co-founders, Mark Potts and Susan DeFife, and admire their community vision. They are starting with McClean and Reston Virginia with a simple and clean ColdFusion site. At launch there are a couple of bugs that prevent posting to news, but the scope of features is ambitious. Members post news, express blog-like voices, contribute to a wiki-like community guide, share photos openly, add events to the calendar and can post classified ads. The Yellow Pages is coming soon.

Interestingly enough, one bit of news is if locals think a Metro to Dulles Airport is worth their local tax dollars, whereas travelers and the greater metro area wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. These are the conversations that usually remain in coffee shops, perhaps now they can become news. Jay Rosen and others will have more…

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: social software


1. Colin Donald on May 15, 2005 2:03 PM writes...

Looking at the Backfence sites today, it's striking that neither has received any contributions from teens to their Teens section more than a month after the first invitation. Is there a generation gap here, with the teens preferring to hang out with the cool people on MySpace instead of concerning themselves with small town stuff?

Will Backfence actually have to rely on self-selected contributors who have to care about local matters (property prices, politics) and so are typically over 30 - or even over 40?

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In the last decade, I've watched a number of hyper-local online communities struggle in vain to find a viable business model. Big players such as Microsoft Sidewalk,'s On Washington,,, and other smal... [Read More]

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