E-Net News

Michelle Ferrier shares new media insights at summit

Michelle Ferrier, associate professor of communications, shared what it takes to develop and run a niche online community at the New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8. Ferrier was a winner of the 2009 New Media Women Entrepreneurs competition and received $10,000 to launch LocallyGrownNews.com in May 2010.

Attendees were motivated by service to their communities, to expand coverage into geographic or topical areas not covered by legacy media and perhaps for the potential payouts when a site is eventually sold.

LocallyGrownNews.com shifts the locus of conversation about community development from the town center to the farmers’ market. Ferrier believes that local food, local economies, and eco-friendly ideas provide a powerful way for communities to begin talk about other sustainability issues.

To develop great online communities, Ferrier says entrepreneurs need to focus on content, architecture, design, audience and engagement.

“You need people passionate about the topics that you’re talking about on your site,” she said. “And through a site’s functions and structure, you can engage that audience in sharing that passion with others.”

LocallyGrownNews.com is a user-generated content site, meaning users can sign up as members and post their own stories, photos, events and video on the site. Ferrier recently added geolocation and social media engagement tools like a “Rate This” system to the site.

Keynote speaker Laurel Touby launched MediaBistro online in 1996 after hosting successful media professional meet ups in the New York area. The site grew to include job listings, media news and information and online courses. Touby sold the site in 2007 for more than $20 million.

“I could have been Craigslist!” Touby said as she described how her focus on media professionals limited her ability to see the larger opportunities in what she created. Touby also said sites should focus on alternatives to ad revenue.

“Make money from the people who love you,” she said. MediaBistro.com offers premium content, events and paid job classifieds.

Lisa Williams founded Placeblogger.com, an online site that aggregates the hyperlocal blogs across the country. Williams said that with Facebook, everyone will have an embarrassing virtual moment.

“A world oriented toward transparency is a world oriented toward forgiveness,” she said. “I’d like to live there.”

LocallyGrownNews.com is an online community focused on local food, sustainability and enviromental issues.

She cautioned students: “If students don't know how to handle themselves with social media, we can't hire them.

Retha Hill, director of Arizona State University’s New Media Innovation Lab, recently won two grants – one from the Knight News Challenge and another from the McCormick Foundation’s 2010 New Media Women Entrepreneurs competition. She demonstrated a virtual reality mobile application that shares African American history using the Layar browser. She predicts that within six to eight months, the cost of Objective-C app development will come down to a reasonable level to create native apps.

“The good news is that 24 percent of folks with smart phones are using apps looking for weather, restaurants, etc.,” said Hill.

The women suggested that women start and not wait to find funding or the right partner. Women should ask themselves “What can I do without anyone's assistance or permission? If you can't get started without funding, find a place where you can get started.”

Michelle Ferrier, associate professor in the School of Communications, shares the key elements of developing and running an online community at the New Media Women Entrepreneurs Summit sponsored by J-Lab and the McCormick Foundation on Monday.
Michelle Ferrier,
12/4/2010 3:26 PM