First we made NewsCloud easy to install, then we made it cheap, now we're making it free to get started building a social media community for your favorite topic, neighborhood, city or school:
The generous folks at Rackspace are offering six months of credited hosting (up to $250 monthly) for anyone hosting NewsCloud in the Rackspace Cloud through their startup program. Now, there's no reason not to try your hand at launching your own social media community.
While most content management systems are optimized around publishing, NewsCloud's features offer ways for your audience to participate and lead the site with user generated content. As activity increases, you can integrate advertising and paid content referral systems to capture new revenue streams. We also offer some innovative ways to populate your site with content from RSS and Twitter Lists.
We're a free, open source, community engagement platform funded generously by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Our platform offers features that encourage engaged communities filled with user generated content such as sharing news, blog posts, photos & video, crowdsourcing ideas, favorite places and resources, discussion forums, classifieds and lending library for sharing physical goods, peer Q&A, et al. All of NewsCloud's features are tightly integrated to Facebook and Twitter. Learn more.
We agree with Owens: "Jump on in, the water’s fine."
Interesting comments in the Puget Sound Business Journal - this is sort of what Facebook did to application developers with notifications ... which is one of the reasons we're moving NewsCloud away from native canvas applications and moving towards using Facebook as just another authentication provider:
Before, when a user clicked the “like” or “recommend” buttons on a business’s page, anyone viewing that user’s news feed would see that the user likes that business or product. Same with comments posted to a business page. But Eckert says those aren't showing up in personal feeds anymore when clicked through Facebook, though they do appear in feeds when clicked through the businesses’ website.
“The ‘like’ button is being marginalized,” says Dave Ringler, Blind Acre’s director of marketing and product development. “How are businesses going to stay in front of their followers’ friends?”
It also means businesses will have to give more consideration to how they use “like” buttons on their websites.
When I was a child, I used to love Sea Monkeys. You'd just add the magic powder to a bowl of water and the next day you'd have tiny little baby sea monkeys swimming around. Starting up a social media news community in Facebook has always been harder, until now.
Beginning today, you can take NewsCloud's free, open source Facebook application platform and create a community site with news content from Twitter.
There are two big challenges to creating a community news startup. 1) Aggregating relevant, timely news content for your site and 2) Promoting and marketing your site. NewsCloud's new Twitter integration address the first challenge.
How It Works
You choose a topic for your NewsCloud Facebook application. e.g. Seattle or Baseball. Then, you create a Twitter List with Twitter users you believe do a good job of focusing on this topic area. When you set up your NewsCloud site, you can tell it to populate content automatically from this Twitter List. NewsCloud will appropriately filter tweets from news related sites (you can white list and black list sites to further control for relevance) and publish these to your site with links back to the Twitter users that posted the content in the first place.
You can see an example of this at The Needle, using our example Twitter list for Seattle. Your NewsCloud site will pull in content from Twitter users you choose and select stories that come from relevant news sites. You can create your own Twitter List, curating your favorite twitterers for your site topic or region. Or, you can use someone else's existing Twitter List. It's about as simple as growing sea monkeys.
We'd love to see you set up your own topical or hyperlocal community using our free, open source Facebook technology and give us feedback on this new feature. To be successful, you'll still need to promote your community actively, but this is a great way to leverage Twitter to seed your community with interesting and relevant stories from day one.
While NewsCloud also can automatically add stories from RSS feeds, we feel that using Twitter lists with members you curate is more effective at finding higher quality content. RSS feeds tend to firehose too many stories and are less personal. Also, the presentation of Twitter content on your community site highlights the personalities and profile pictures of each Twitter user. Whereas, RSS feeds are posted by a single user account.
During the past few years, we've partnered with a number of news organizations. Here are the 10 things they commonly misunderstand about NewsCloud. Note: #10 is actually the most important.
1) You can use NewsCloud to host a virtual town hall, fostering community and engagement between readers. Our interactive features let your audience participate in new ways. Our Facebook Connect support connects readers with their real names and faces, fostering a more civil environment. Host your community's online hub before someone else does.
2) You can use NewsCloud to enhance and expand your storytelling. Our crowdsourcing features let participants contribute to your reporting or add value after publication. Your readers want to engage beyond the comment thread, there's a lot to gain by empowering them.
3) You can use NewsCloud to run community sites for columnists or show personalities, for topics such as sports or for beat reporting or for targeting specific demographics such as young people or college communities. However, the more vertically you segment your community - the more you'll need to pay attention to #10 below.
4) You can monetize your NewsCloud community with advertisements from your own ad services. And, you can integrate your favorite analytics/statistics engine e.g. Google Analytics or Overture in order to integrate activity from your community application into your overall web metrics. You fully own your site, not NewsCloud. So, you get to keep all the revenue. That's different than Facebook pages where Facebook gets to keep all the revenue it makes from your content. We also provide support for Outbrain and TrafficSpaces.
5. NewsCloud's software elevates your audience from reader to participant and community member. User generated content provides a new source of page views and serves as an ear to the ground for valuable storyleads. Our integration with Facebook and Twitter lead to more viral sharing and helps you expand your audience.
8. Newsroom staff need to participate in your community, helping curate content and occasionally interacting directly with readers. They should also be trained in using NewsCloud features to expand their storytelling. While high levels of marketing can seed a community without participation by newsroom personalities, you'll see increased levels of loyalty and satisfaction if your team engages directly in the community. You'll also see benefits from interacting with readers publicly through the community which aren't as easy to do through traditional website comment threads and personal off-site emails.
10. Promotion Promotion Promotion. The most important thing to know is that you absolutely must actively promote your NewsCloud site from your website if you want your community to grow. You'll need prominent navigational links to your NewsCloud site and features. You'll also need to regularly showcase headlines and features from your NewsCloud site on the front page of your web site. It's best if your NewsCloud site is included in all of your outreach e.g. print, email, web, etc. This is especially important at the beginning when you are seeding your community ... but this is always a best practice. While you may initially hesitate directing traffic from your primary web site to your NewsCloud community site, over time you will see a net increase in page views and activity. And, remember, you fully own your new community site and will realize all the financial rewards from its growth.
NewsCloud is a free, open source platform for building Facebook Connect community applications and web sites.
There are primarily two ways we recommend alternative weeklies use NewsCloud:
1) Use NewsCloud to launch a virtual town hall providing a place for your readers to connect with each other. Add interactive features such as user blogs, photo and video galleries, link sharing and discussion forums to give your readers new ways to interact with each other. NewsCloud even offers a Classifieds and Lending Library which allows readers to share physical goods such as books, DVDs and household items.
NewsCloud's integration with Facebook Connect allows readers to connect with their real names and faces, greatly improving the civility of these sites. Move beyond generic Facebook pages (learn how NewsCloud differs from Facebook pages) and give your readers a community home that they can get truly excited about to share.
2) Use NewsCloud's crowdsourcing features to extend your storytelling, giving readers creative ways to get involved. Move beyond comments. Give your readers creative ways to get involved with and augment your reporting. NewsCloud offers crowdsourcing features such as idea boards, questions and answers, resource directories and even a news predictions game. Set up photo and video galleries, discussion forums and link to user blogs to extend the conversation.
Every NewsCloud feature is tightly integrated into Facebook and Twitter for viral sharing. It also integrates your statistical tracking and advertising engines to allow you to leverage these interactive page views into new sources of revenue. It's also fully optimized for search engines to draw inbound traffic.