The Nieman Journalism Lab through Harvard University examines a new D.C. news outlet which will operate entirely on Facebook:
Say you run a community news site. In your spare time. And Patch has moved into your neighborhood. How do you, with limited resources but a desire to keep contributing to your community, stay competitive?
One site’s solution: Take the “site” out of “news site.” Starting March 1, Rockville Central, a community news outlet for the DC-area city of Rockville, Maryland, will move its operation to…its Facebook page. Entirely to its Facebook page.
“There are always two different conversations going on,” Cindy Cotte Griffiths, the site’s editor, told me — one on RockvilleCentral.com, and the other on the site’s Facebook page. Why force the two to compete with each other, when they’re actually, in general, the same conversation? Facebook is, Cotte Griffiths notes, “where the people are.” (Rockville Central currently gets about 2,000 of its average 20,000 monthly hits from Facebook, she told me.) “Everyone’s always trying to get people out of Facebook,” she says. “And we’re like, ‘Well, we’re already here.’”
There are some obvious benefits to the all-Facebook approach. Facebook, for one, has a huge built-in audience — one that is used to sharing and commenting on and contributing content. It has a built-in infrastructure — one that easily accommodates multimedia. It has, essentially, a built-in mobile app. For an outlet that’s run by people who do that running in their spare time — that is, publishers who have even less time than most to deal with concerns about site design, server capacity, and other logistical aspects of digital journalism — Facebook’s insta-infrastructure could free up time that may be spent on more traditionally journalistic endeavors: fact-gathering, conversation-guiding, content-aggregating, community-building, etc.