This week Metaprinter reporter Robert Ivan interviews Mark Briggs, CEO of Serra Media, to learn more about the company's product, Newsgarden. Founded by Glenn Thomas, Samuel Wan and Briggs, Serra Media is a Seattle-based web technology company that develops interactive projects for news sites and creates software for media companies.
Last November the company launched Newsgarden, "a map-based web application that filters the location of recent news items, blog posts and other information available on the web down to the neighborhood level." News sites purchase the application, which displays a Google map with plotted points, to allow readers access to geographically targeted content--stories, photos, links, video--from both the news staff and also other readers.
Hyperlocal news initiatives have great potential for success as they provide specialized information relevant to the daily lives of community readers. Many news providers, such as the Huffington Post and the New York Times, are closing in on local markets to maintain their readership. Newsgarden allows publications to achieve this neighborhood hyperlocalization within their pre-existing websites. Serra Media assures publishers that Newsgarden "helps you grow your audience while publishing more hyperlocal news without hiring any more staff. Plus, you'll be creating new markets to tap into for new revenue."
Three Washington city newspapers have already implemented Newsgarden, the Bellingham Herald, the Olympian and the Peninsula Gateway, and last week Serra Media announced that the Iowa-based company Gazette Communications Inc. plans to employ the product to serve local audiences. These newspapers and companies profit from Newsgarden through its built-in advertising network called MicromarketAds, a hosted application that functions simply in the publication's website. MicromarketAds permits local advertisers to place ads themselves, using the map to geotarget specific locations and content, and pay with a credit card. Though media advertising ad sales have dropped in the media, the Wall Street Journal has indicated that lately publications with targeted audiences such as these have been more successful.
Serra Media expects Newsgarden to revolutionize local news by building online communities that integrate professional and citizen journalism, and Briggs says their next products will continue this mission. "We've just launched WhereToGo, a way to discover and share restaurants, cafes, bars, attractions, and much more," he said. "We're also launching TownLuxe to let shoppers browse trends, find sales and share tips."
Briggs is the author of Journalism 2.0: Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age, which he plans to follow with Newspaper 2.0 this fall. He is also a speaker, trainer and consultant on entrepreneurial initiatives and innovation for new media.