Think different about local news

“Mobile changes everything” is now a cliche that is old and tired as I am after a redeye. But that doesn’t make it less true. Mobile is asking as to rethink our assumptions about how we live, work, shop, entertain and inform ourselves. The pocketable computers with invisible connections to “the network” has made it possible for a four-year-old Uber to upend the century-old taxicab business. Today, Amazon’s apps are threating Macy’s. We are using our iPhones as blood pressure machines. And we are just getting started.

Perhaps that is why it is time to rethink what it means to be a local media entity. So far, Local News has been nothing but a chimera, a graveyard of reputations and incinerator of hundreds of millions of dollars. Why did the world need Patch? Well, because we wanted to re-create old local papers on the web, but with fewer overheads and small news staffs that were paid like serfs. Today I read about the “corporate-pr posing as brand journalism” in places like Richmond, California.

No one has stopped and asked the question why do we need a newspaper style entity. Do we need local news when most people crave local information that is relevant and realtime? In this age of selfies, social and photo sharing, why not thinking about local information differently where locals engaged on the platform and provided updates that might be useful only in local context. Traffic jam on a busy street is a photo and a short SMS-length update. The news of a new restaurant can be shared as a photo and a few tips — recommendations that apps like Foursquare have already popularized.

I think the future of local news is very different than its past. It is less about newspapers, and more about platforms that connect. Today, news of fire in San Francisco comes over Twitter and while it is useful to those of us in South of Market Area, it can get lost in the unending wave of tweets. What if that information could be shared and given a local context by using the location beacons for geo-fencing.

In Roman times, there was a Praeco, a Newsreader  or a senate crier who would announce  daily the pronouncements of the Senate, public service announcements, business advertisements, and the current events of the Republic to the people in the Forum, or the town square. We have similar people in villages in different cultures. What mobile and technology enables us is to have a platform that plays a similar role where we the citizens are sharing the news. It is a Reddit style entity with communication at its core core, a platform where local politicians and city halls use the service to issue updates that impact their community. Or community shares the news as it happens and talks about it. It is not a social network, but more a social space. 

Thoughts? 

 

40 Kilometers

I am known to go to great lengths and even greater distances to meet great bootmakers and shoe stores of some repute. Most people make vacation itineraries around the idea of seeing ruins or really old buildings. I prefer shoes and fantastic food (in that order) to be my guiding light.

It must be because as a child, I grew up with only two pair of shoes — one for school and another for play. Eating out became an option, only later in my teen years. Like, I often say, what you don’t have as a child defines you more than what you actually do have. So perhaps that is why when I go to a foreign city, I finish my work and find a few great restaurants. And then walk off the good food by walking to some little known shoe store (for rest of the world) or a cobbler of some repute.

A friend, once finding out that I was going to be visiting Tuscany recommended a shoemaker, for he lived a few miles from where I was going to be making a temporary residence. He said it was perhaps about 25 miles to the ancient city of Siena, which is well known for its annual festival, Palio di Siena.

Having gotten used to the American roads, I roughly equate 25 miles to about 30 minutes — thanks to fairly straight and wide freeways, especially in the midwest and western parts of the country. The speed limit too isn’t too bad and folks traverse great distances at a pretty decent clip. So when I think of 25 miles, I often think about the distance from San Francisco to Redwood City, which on a decent traffic day is about a 30 minute drive down US Highway 101.

With that in mind, I was looking forward to this quick drive to Siena. When, I looked at the Google maps at the start if the journey, Google Maps said that it was going to take about 57 minutes to travel 40 kilometers. In reality, the trip ended up taking about 80 minutes. The giant Google machine hadn’t really accounted for quite a few things machines aren’t supposed to understand — because they aren’t quantifiable.

For instance, as a US driver, you tend to get a lot more cautious on curvaceous and hilly roads, compared to Italians who throw around their little Fiats like go-karts on a racing track. Google didn’t account for one getting stuck behind a neon-colored lycra festooned bicycle group for ten minutes, before they could maneuver and give you room to pass. The machine also didn’t know that overnight some parts of the road has just crumbled away and well, driving became a lot more perilous.

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  1. In this data driven world, how do we (and software and devices) deal with unexpected divergences between “the data” and the real world? Do we become so dependent on data-driven algorithms that some stale data can cause major havoc? How do we gracefully recover from such situations?
  2. How does the new world of data-driven intelligence not just provide quotidian services that make our lives more efficient, but create moments of serendipity that make our lives more joyful?

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Start Small

“I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work.” Notch, creator of Minecraft on why he is leaving. This is a great lesson for anyone looking for a reboot and rekindling their passion for things they love.

Some reflections on the new Apple Event

Tim Cook has come under pressure and criticism from many for riding the coattails of the line-up crafted by Steve Jobs. The new products, the new open approach to press and communicating with the world, and picking the venue where the original Mac was introduced, Tim Cook in his own subtle way is communicating to the world — a brand new era for Apple. U2’s Bono called him the “zen master” and perhaps that is an ideal description of the man who will need a lot of zen to keep this increasingly complex company on track.

Cook, deserves a lot of credit for holding and nurturing Apple through the four three years since Steve’s passing and yesterday, he indicated to the world, the grieving is over. This is Cook’s Apple. I do believe, the company will miss the ruthless editing and polish of Steve Jobs. The magic and ability to mesmerize is fading, despite the whiz bang but in the end it is really about making “lifestyle” products the — Apple way. I shared some of these thoughts with Emily Chang on the evening edition of Bloomberg West show earlier this week.

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Apple watch hands on — photos & videos!

Apple recently hosted an event to unveil new, bigger and brighter iPhones. It also launched the new Apple Pay system which can truly change how we spend money. But in the it was an event about Apple’s foray into the brave new world of computing-driven lifestyle accessories. The first of that new line up of products is — Apple Watch. I was there at the Flint Center and got to play with the watches and get a little hands on time for them.

These are classic Apple products. Well built. Immaculately engineered. Machined to perfection. Marvels of modern material science. Bright, light and wonderful. They are Apple’s interpretation of the watch and while it might not be me — I like the old, manual wound mechanical watches — there is many who believe that this could be end of the traditional quartz watch as we know it.

Here are photos and videos of the watch from the event stores on my Storehouse!

Yves Behar on Apple Watch

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“In typical Apple fashion, they’re coming out with something that’s desirable and has style. Everything Apple has done in the last six years has been an evolution of their design language. If you look at watch companies, they do exactly the same thing: They own a visual style, and they stay with it for a hundred years. It doesn’t mean I find the watch exciting—I find it right.” Yves Behar, designer of many watches.

 His views on watches are worth your attention. He will be speaking at my Roadmap conference in November 2014

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Sometimes a car is not just a car

Ever since Liz Gannes reported about Google’s new self driving car, I have been actively thinking about its impact on the auto-business, economics of mobility and the idea of car ownership in a world full of sensors, networks and automation. I scribbled some of thoughts on a piece of paper and turned this into a column for the upcoming issue of FastCompany. “The Model T may have been fairly unexciting from an aesthetic design perspective (much like this first Google car), but it changed human potential forever.” I hope you find some time to read the full column.

Photo of Google Driverless Car courtesy of Recode.

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