Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Digital village commons

In Great Britain many small villages have their commons, a green area in the middle of the village, where people meet. The Wegener, the largest publisher of Dutch regional papers is planning a pilot project with virtual common greens.

The Dutch regional papers are becoming more national and are loosing subscribers who do not find their local news in the regional newspapers any longer. Wegener now intends to set up portals with very locally oriented news- and information platforms. The first pilots are to be introduced in the city of Enschede and the village of Haaksbergen in the east of the Netherlands, close to the German border.

No longer should the international and national news dominate, but local news. Local people can add news themselves and share it with other visitors. Interactivity between the regional and especially local people is central in the Wegener plan. So sports clubs, but also the brass band can have their own club log. Participation is promoted by the publisher and honoured.

It is not the first time that Wegener attempts to introduce local portals. In 1996 the company started up the project City Online. In 18 cities/areas portals were created where the regional newspapers could publish their local news and where visitors to the portal could build their own home. Based on a privacy hostile algorithm inhabitants of these virtual portals a profile of their age, gender, news and hobbies, they would receive their news. Also VNU, at that still owner of regional newspapers also participated in City Online, but stepped out after a year. Soon after in 1998, Wegener also stopped the project. The project failed organisationally as the regional publishers felt forced to participate and did not feel free to do their thing. Also the privacy hostile algorithm yielded resistance among consumers.

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