Martin Huber – Myheimat.de

Posted on 05. Oct, 2007 by in Hyperlocal, International, Technology

Your work in networked/citizen/collaborative journalism. 

Myheimat.de combines printed magazines and an online-platform for hyper-local communities. A network of 5.000 contributors (citizen reporter) submit thousands of stories and the community picks stories for hyper-local printed freesheets (monthly, close to 100% UGC) which reach a combined circulation of 120.000.

As founder of a local monthly freesheet in 1994 Martin Huber learned and experienced the need of local media users and what service they expect of their local newspaper resp. media. Major focuses of his research at TUM (2001-2004) have been virtual communities, value-co-production and technology-platforms for integrating customers into the value-chain. (Ph.D. thesis: ”Collaborative Value creation”). 2002 he co-founded a mobile content sharing application (www.mozean.de) where users can publish and share content which is delivered via mobile phone.

2003 he co-founded gogolmedien to build a scalable publishing-platform for converged media products (print&online) and collaborative content creation, driven by users. Since 2003 gogolmedien successfully launched 17 hyper-local so called myheimat-magazines based on this platform.

What are your goals?

Myheimat.de tries to provide a service that helps people make the communities they live in better places. Our service combines online, print and mobile for the lowest possible threshold to participate and the highest reach in the local community.
In Germany there are over 1.800 small cities (between 10-50K inhabitants) which perfectly match myheimat. We want to cover these cities with monthly/weekly freesheets. Therefore we will partner with media-companies and traditional newspapers.
In addition we plan to offer the platform behind myheimat as an innovative tool for media companies to serve their customers on a hyper-local level and to enable networked journalism on a local or regional level. Our goal is to further develop the technology platform of myheimat to give professional journalists a tool for seamless collaboration with an open community of citizen reporters.

Notable achievements?

Back in 2003 myheimat was the first community-to-print initiative (at least we know of). At least in Germany no media company (start-up or traditional newspaper) managed to roll-out successful 17 local free-sheets in 3 years.

Lesson you’ve learned (including mistakes you’ve made)

We regard Organisation/People and Information (Systems) as the key to networked journalism and think that networked journalism is driven and enabled by strong technology platforms specifically designed for networked journalism.
Organisation/People

Our journalists had to learn to moderate the conversation and not to write content themselves. This was (in the beginning) much easier with employees who are not trained in traditional newspaper production, but we now also see a lot of traditional trained journalists who enhance their abilities in moderating and animating user(-communities).

From our experience since 2003 I can only confirm and emphasize how Jeff Jarvis put it: “How does the role of the journalist change? Journalists must now augment their traditional and valued roles of reporter, watchdog, questioner, vetter, investigator, editor. In the conversation, they need to take on new roles, as moderator, enabler, organizer, talent scout, even journalistic evangelist and educator.” (from: http://www.buzzmachine.com/2007/10/05/how-do-we-teach-the-conversation)
To adapt the media application/the media format quickly to user needs or user feedback, cross-disciplinary teams and co-location helps a lot. We learned to put an editorial designer, a programmer and a moderator together in a team, to deliver fast results the user wants.

Information system

In the beginning (2003) we underestimated how important an agile development process and an agile platform architecture is. We (naively) specified and started coding our Version 2.0 of the platform in a half-year project, but we stopped this project, because we realized that we ran into an architecture which was not agile enough, and the (time-) gap between user-feedback and implementation was too big. Time-to-market of the next feature/version hast to be < 1 month.
We know have a much more agile piece of software where we can react instantly on user feedback, have fast development iterations (“continuously beta”) and can embed experience and user feedback every 2-3 days in our platform.

Are you getting revenue for this? How?
Ads in our printed freesheets generate 99% of our revenues. This will change in the future shifting to online-ads (but slowly!). We have a team of 17 full time employees. The sales-team has 6 full-time employees (80% outbound sales) and we have additional 6 part-time sales-agents in the field. 

Myheimat is expanding its reach and plans to publish hyperlocal myheimat freesheets nationwide. Therefore it

  1. developed a franchise system, where the myheimat-publishing-platform is provided via ASP and individuals can run their business as publisher of a printed freesheet
  2. provides myheimat as a decentralized collaboration platform for existing media companies who restructure their newsroom to do networked journalism

What’s next? What do you need to get to the next level?
We want to speed up our growth and the licensing of our solution. Therefore we plan to finish a round of strategic (venture) capital financing by the end of 2007.

We will add new features (vote for print, geo-tagging, rss-input) and develop an interface to have an even more agile platform, where our moderators can change and add media formats/apps without involving a coder. 

Anyone you’d like to talk with, learn from, or work with at the summit
Travis Henry – YourHub: to share thoughts about the franchise business model

Howard Weaver – McClatchy, Jennifer Carroll – Gannett, Dan Pacheco – Bakersfield.com, Lisa Williams – H2OTown, Placeblogger

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