Journal Register Company, want to help evolve the business model that is failing traditional news operations.
To that end, we undertook a project we hope will turn out to be revolutionary for both the industry and the people who consume our product — that is, you, our readers.
Today, July 4, is the culmination of this project, dubbed the Ben Franklin Project (BFP). Today, our print and online editions were produced and published— to the fullest extent possible — using only free tools available on the Internet.
It’s no secret that anyone can publish content these days. Text, photos, videos and more can be created and broadcast to millions in a matter of minutes. News organizations spend a lot of money on programs to put out their products. By using free tools to accomplish our job, we're "declaring independence" -- at least for a day -- from companies and vendors that supply expensive, propriety offerings.
Check out the print edition today and see if you can tell it was created using Scribus for layout, SeaShore for photos and Google Docs to type and file articles.
Also, head over to the BFP incarnation of Saratogian.com at sar.jrcbenfranklin.com. It's powered by WordPress. Ads were created in BannerSnack, and videos were produced and hosted using either JayCut or the Flip Share software on our Flip cameras and uploaded to YouTube.
Media companies: take note of what's been accomplished here. But the lessons are there for more than just the struggling news industry.
There is also a second component to this project, and in my mind it's the most important: In the last month we've tried to break down the barriers, real and imagined, between us and you. We cover this community. You ARE the community. We need to better facilitate the conversation so we know, first hand, what you want us to cover.
The buzzword for this is “crowdsourcing,” and we hope that by tapping into all your collective wisdom more purposefully, we can direct our work according to your needs and wants, even your guidance and advice, to provide you more in-depth, accurate, timely and relevant information.
We’ve opened the dialogue in as many ways possible: You can engage us on Facebook, Twitter, through e-mail, through comments on our articles or our blogs, or even the old fashioned ways: over the phone or in person.
But just because this phase of the project is over doesn't mean we're done looking for your input. Is there another online social network we should utilize to more thoroughly tap into our community? Is there something happening in the community we missed? Let us know.
More thoughts from me on the Ben Franklin Project soon. In the meantime, I'd love to read yours in the comments below.
Happy Fourth of July!