Facebook alternative: The library-newspaper synergies

Earlier today I proposed that libraries team up with newspapers and others on a Facebook alternative. How would such alliances help both libraries and local media? Some thoughts:

No, as emphasized before, I’m not saying libraries and allies should try to put Facebook out of business. But imagine the positives. This would be one way for newspapers to grow closer to their communities than by aligning themselves too tightly with the existing Facebook. A Facebook alternative could even offer Twitter-style capabilities, among others.

So what would the benefits for libraries be?

More than now, newspapers could help publicize library offerings, including special talks and other events. Also, if newspapers regularly picked up items from a library-related network, with the consent of users, the network would be more enticing and buzzworthy than otherwise.

How would this work? Even with privacy protections in place—more than Facebook has!—newspapers could still find, verify and reproduce or link to items that members of the community wanted to publicize. Imagine the data mining possibilities and the cost savings. Staffers doing trend-based features could use citizen-generated information for leads to ideas. The same concept would apply to breaking-news people. What a way for local newspapers to add value—through means that out-of-state media companies couldn’t replicate (at least not without doing their own reporting and incurring big, Patch-style expenses)!

I live in Alexandria, VA, in the backyard of the Washington Post, and it’s a good example of the issues here. Long term, the Post’s excessive reliance on Facebook could be a disaster. The Post has even built a social reader around Facebook.

Without abandoning Facebook entirely, the Post and other news organizations really should spend more time and money on ties with schools, libraries, civic groups and other centers of local life. Facebook is far from the ultimate information source (same for blogs)—it’s incomplete and a bit helter-skelter. I want something more thorough and systematic that reflects community priorities rather than a far-off corporation’s.

Note: I’m not saying libraries should abandon Facebook entirely, either—particularly before the library network is in place. From David Lee King of the Topeka and Shawnee County public library system, here are some Facebook strategies for them to use.

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