Howard Owens – GateHouse Media

Posted on 04. Oct, 2007 by in Big Media, Citizen Network, Hyperlocal

Your work in networked/citizen/collaborative journalism.
As far back as East County Online (San Diego) in 1995, I’ve been working to create collaborative online communities. At ECO we didn’t have the tools to do it easily, so we invited key community members to contribute to our site and asked readers to e-mail us their opinions on things. We also formed a community group to meet regularly about topics in the community. Later, I started the RVClub.com, which I positioned as a virtual community. At the Ventura County Star, we were among the first to use comments on stories and were the first as far as I know to invite any member of the community to blog for us. At The Bakersfield Californian, I pushed for combining Bakotopia with Bakersfield.com. At GateHouse Media, we are developing a whole new participation platform.

What are your goals?
To create the new town square for the small communities we serve.

Notable achievements?
– Launching East County Online in 1995, the first group of US weekly papers on the web

– While at the Ventura County Star, we won best news site awards from E&P, NAA and ONA (I was director in 2004 when the site won ONA‘s General Excellence Award). In those six years, the site won awards in several other categories.

– Creating Bakersfield.com as we know it today, which has been nominated for a Digital Edge Award, as well as winning the first-ever Inland Press Association General Excellence Award.

Lesson you’ve learned (including mistakes you’ve made)
– Move faster. Resist the temptation to have all the right things in all the right places before taking action.
– In a newspaper organization, be honest with staff — we have to do this and online is just simply more important to our potential for growth than print (in the past, I was soft on this message).
– Blog. You’ve got to walk the talk if you want your organizations to change.
– There are a number of things I wish I had done differently over they years. I wouldn’t call them mistakes so much as lessoned learned. For example, in Ventura, we should have been more aggressive about inviting key community leaders to blog for us. There is a whole host of things I wish we could have moved faster on in Ventura.

Are you getting revenue for this? How?
At GHS, we’re still building our revenue products. In Ventura, we were as successful as anybody in the newspaper industry at growing revenue (we really expanded the idea of Top Jobs, which is now an industry standard recruitment up sell). In Bakersfield, let’s just say revenue-wise, I left Bakersfield.com MUCH better off than I found it.

What’s next? What do you need to get to the next level?
More time. More people. The ideas are all out there. The path is pretty clear. At GHS, we just have SOOOO much work to do.

Also, please list anyone you’d particularly like to talk with, learn
> from, or work with at the summit (see a list of attendees here:
> < http://newsinnovation.com/list-of-attendees>

Lisa Williams
Chris Tolles (simple question: why won’t Topix obey our robots.txt
exclusion file?)
Dave Winer
JD Lasic
Ariana Huffington (I met her just before she launched HuffPost, but I
would really like to review with her again her start up model)
Scott Karp

And I’ve never met Jeff Jarvis …

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  1. Who I’ve Learned From - 107 Interviews « DigiDave - Journalism is a Process, Not a Product - May 25, 2009

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