Sep 10

Nase Adresa shuts: sad moment

At the very moment that a promising experiment in hyperlocal journalism in the Czech Republic seemed set to spread all over the country, the original investors have sold the company and the small town papers and websites are to be shut.

Best version of the story is at Editorsweblog. Some background from this blog here.

What was unusual about the Nase Adresa (literally “our address”) network was not that it did hyperlocal startups. There are, happily, thousands of those all over the world – although they remain relatively rare in central Europe. The x-factor in Nase Adresa’s recipe was the unusual  balance between local and national.

The little news rooms, located in coffee shops, generated most of the material for printed weeklies and websites in communities of usually between 10,000 and 30,000 people. But they were not on their own. The company, PPF, had invested in and raised sponsorship for a “Futuroom” in Prague to which the local reporters could turn for help.

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May 10

Bouncing Czechs

Much debate about new business models for journalism patronisingly assumes that all the interesting imagining, innovation and invention is going on in north-western Europe, Scandinavia and America. Not so. To see one of the most interesting experiments of all, you only have to swing the searchlight a short distance eastwards towards central Europe to light up what is going on in the Czech Republic.

I described the hyperlocal news publishing experiment known as Nase Adresa in a lecture (p11 or search “Czech” here). I’m delighted to see that its international ambassador Roman Gallo has been getting out and about with his message: here he’s in Canada.

Note a few significant things about this initiative:

1) It’s one of the very few of its kind which is backed by a big (and presumably hard-headed) company – in this case the Amsterdam-based insurance group PPF.

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Dec 09

Passion vs page views

At the World Editors Forum this year (in Hyderabad), a theme is emerging: a pendulum swing back from the once-frantic chase for huge online visitor totals and towards more concentration on the quality of users’ engagement with the material. Experience and the recession have brutally demonstrated the low value of one-off visitors to news sites bounced in by search engines. “And this was the great audience we were chasing all this time: a swarm of locusts,” said one chastened editor from London.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who’ve made this discovery are going to build paywalls round their sites to compensate for a shortage of advertising revenue. One of the most interesting experiments in local online journalism in the world is happening in the Czech Republic where a modest project begun this year has just won a green light to spread across the country.

Some background here and here. Two elements make the Naseadresa (“our address”) network of sites and weekly papers different. They run coffee shops with added journalism. The newsroom is a cafe, which aims to be a community centre, with meetings, dance classes and music on the pavement. (The only act of self-censorship they have so far carried out was to suppress a video of senior citizens jiving in the cafe: the editors were worried that their younger readers would never let their parents return to the cafe if the video was aired). Reporters and bloggers work from the cafe, wide open to tips, material and criticism.

Second, the local sites are supported by a knowhow centre in Prague, the “Futuroom“. This supplies national and regional material, offers design and web expertise and can put together trend stories when local news makes patterns or combinations that look interesting.

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