Journalism 2.0
How to survive and thrive in the digital age

This blog is a companion to the book I have written. It will teach current (and future) journalists the skills they need to do better journalism with the help of digital technology. More information about the book.


Interested in a career in journalism? Then become the mayor of your zip code

In a thought-provoking post (on many fronts), A-list blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin advises real estate agents to follow one of two paths to survive and thrive in these trying times for that particular industry.

Option 1: quit. Option 2: become the mayor of your zip code.

Godin recommends those who follow Option 2 to use his Squidoo web service to accomplish this goal (he’s a marketing guru, after all), but even if the idea is somewhat self-serving, it begs an interesting question:

Who is the mayor of your zip code?

Not the mayor of your town or city, but your hyperlocal area. Godin suggests that a good real estate agent could become that with a little effort and appeal.

Mayor of your zip code is a way to start a discussion group/info page about what’s happening in your slice of the world. You become the source of information, the watercooler, the person to turn to. Of course, if you spend ten minutes on it and then move on, it’ll fail. But, if you spent 30% of your time working on your page (building it, curating it, promoting it), what do you think would show up in Google searches? What sort of interactions would you start having with people thinking about your little part of the world? Even better, what if you built a blog about your town, as good as any local paper, with high school sports and tax controversies and everything… don’t you think the right people would read it?

Now you probably see why it’s interesting to me - that bit about being as good as any local paper. The concept of serving an audience down to the hyperlocal level is something news organizations have been talking about wanting to do for years. Some are already doing it quite well. Others are not. In some zip codes, bloggers and other independent online media types have been filling the void.

Will real estate agents - or other small business entities - be next to enter the world of local news, information and community? It’s an interesting possibility. But these blogs don’t do much in the way of local news and information (yet). Probably because it’s not easy. Which is why Godin suggests that those who really dedicate themselves to the mission are the only ones who will succeed.

The same applies to local news organizations. At The News Tribune, we’re not doing as well as we want to in this area, but take a look at the map on Scott Fontaine’s blog and see where he’s reported from in the past few months and you’ll see a glimpse of where we are heading.

John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record and one of the most forward-thinking newspaper journalists today, did a nice riff on Godin’s post, applying it to journalism hopefuls:

With apologies to Seth Godin, who inspired this post:
I often get asked by budding journalists how to break into the business. Here is my newest best advice: Don’t.
The business is too tough. Do something else. Seriously. Go into PR. Go to grad school. You must be good at something else. Figure out what it is and do it.
Now, if you clicked the “Continue reading” link, you’re in luck. You ain’t buying it and you shouldn’t. The ones who didn’t follow the link should get out of the business; they aren’t cut out for it. They can go whine and cry over there.


Posted by MarkBriggs on Tuesday, March 04, 2008


J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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