It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Random nuggets on the Hyperlocalism trend by Nheeda Enriquez

Since I wrote an article about hyperlocalism over the summer, I’ve been passively tracking the trend, and I thought I’d share these findings.

charlottedotcom

logo via charlotte.com

1.  Wait, what happened to charlotte.com?
Last week, I stumbled on the beta news site that the Charlotte Observer just planted in the old charlotte.com site.  In an attempt to retain its local readership, the site features social bookmark-like capabilities (similar to TimesPeople,) allowing users to sign on with existing Twitter, Facebook, et al. accounts.  It pulls in stories from other local sources, including Yelp reviews and blogs.  Time will tell how successful it will be as the data builds; I do hope it eventually introduces more visual design (a la Creative Search or even Newsmap.)

creat_search_sm

screen capture via creative search

2.  You, too, can consume and create.
Looks like the creative team at the Observer is looking for hyperlocal contributors.  Not sure if it’s related to the charlotte.com site, but it’s related to a grant with an organization called the J-Lab.

3.  So are people moving here or what?
Remember the buzz from earlier this year about all the people trying to move to Charlotte to find jobs in this recession?  Newsweek offers an interesting viewpoint on hyperlocalism that might suggest otherwise.



Crystal Dempsey: Flexing her social (media) capital muscles by Nheeda Enriquez

Proof that people can be brands, Crystal Dempsey doesn’t need more press.  She just might be one of those future local leaders emerging out of the nonprofit sector. This is her world and she’s blending social media with civic innovation in Charlotte.

crystalOver coffee, she described a groundswell of something really interesting happening in this town, and though she didn’t know what it was yet, she was bursting with excitement.  It was pretty inspiring.



Charlotte goes back to school! Hyperlocal news you can use by Nheeda Enriquez
flickr photo credits: NIOSH + michael mx5tx

flickr photo credits: NIOSH + michael mx5tx

I’ve been cooking up an article for Charlotte Viewpoint about the role of social media in delivering hyperlocal news for Charlotteans.  One of the examples I reference is a company called CleverCommute.com, which is simply an application that provides service updates on commuter lines through text messages posted by fellow commuters.

With yesterday as the official first day Charlotte-Mecklenburg students (begrudgingly) return to their classrooms, I thought about how that concept might also be helpful to the parents (and other locals stuck in the related traffic.)

I noticed that April Bethea of the Charlotte Observer encouraged parents to tweet their “first day of school” stories and pictures for all to enjoy.  Also entwined are concerns about the spread of swine flu in schools, and I can imagine Google’s Flu Trends serving up data, in real time, to local parents deciding whether or not to send their child to school on a particular day.

Hyperlocal news delivery is quickly evolving all around us.  Where else in our lives will it sneak in?



The Charlotte Observer wants to figure out how to make newspapers new again by Nheeda Enriquez
flickr photo credit: jeku arce

flickr photo credit: jeku arce

My original purpose for meeting up with Steve Gunn, the Charlotte Observer’s Innovation Editor, was to learn more about Mission Possible, the project that his paper spearheaded to find innovative ways to meet the city’s charitable needs through crowdsourcing.   Instead, what I discovered is that this project is just one of many in his attempts to keep the Observer relevant in an era of dying newspapers.

Gunn mentioned that the paper’s readership is growing thanks to the web, but the whole industry is on the hunt for ways to convert new readers into loyal ones, particularly since content is now aggregated through or onto other sites.  Mission Possible, aside from being a philanthropic effort, is also a living, breathing experiment on how this paper might collaborate with other outlets: TV, radio, papers, web, and across counties, languages, and service providers.   They expect to learn and adapt throughout this process, and put the learnings into use for future programs.

It’s been a while since I’d been in a newsroom, and I had forgotten how “creative” these spaces have always been…Desks strewn with visual stimuli in a highly collaborative environment of ordered chaos.  Gunn’s office was no exception, complete with well-traveled trinkets and a full case of Diet Pepsi.  He reminded me that the staff is “very comfortable with messy” and previewed for me an innovative new service they’ll be piloting soon, so look for that on the Observer online in a few weeks!