Today at the AdTech show in San Francisco, Ariana Huffington’s opening keynote focused on local as the venue where the best of social media and new journalism meet.
This comes at a time when social connections are the construct of digital media, taking the place of the dominant, but less personal, search. We’re moving toward a connected world that is “tapping into our humanity,” she said.
But more important, this is gravitating toward local, with the help of location aware technologies in smartphones and Web browsers. There’s also a cultural movement toward demand for content that is more locally relevant.
“Things at the national level are dysfunctional,” she said. “People feel empowered at the local level.”
There are lots of examples of this such as, sports, news and politics (all politics are local after all, right?). National news in particular has dropped the ball in gaining user trust.
Besides the shouting match that cable news has become, even reporting is driven by sensationalism. Her example was the national news turning point (for the worst) that was the “balloon boy” hoax.
“We were duped, and fed a false sense of sentimentality,” she said. “There are hundreds of thousands of little boys growing up hungry and in poor schools. We should get a giant balloon and pretend to put them in it.”
The bottom line is that things are more real at the local level, not to mention more relevant to most people. And the key here is trust, she said, invoking Craig Newmark’s famous line that “Trust is the new black.”
Of course all this is in support of AOL’s efforts in local and hyperlocal news content. In addition to the ambitious undertaking of Patch, Huffington’s role as editor in chief of AOL properties will push local voices.
This will mean an extension of the HuffPo model that taps into voices throughout politics, sports, tech, etc. But going more hyperlocal translates to a curated venue where the high school baseball coach, restaurant owner or tugboat captain can be heard.
“We are migrating the blogging platform of the Huffington Post on all AOL sites and all Patches, all 800 towns,” she said. “[This] will increase engagement dramatically because we will have everyone from the mayor to the kid participating in a high school game to be able to blog and upload pictures and video.”
For more, see the entire keynote below (you can hear me ask her a question around the 53:00 mark)