Does your publishing platform empower your readers?

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The Pew Research Center's annual report on the state of the media acknowledged that in the 20th century the news media was the intermediary others needed to reach customers. "In the 21st there is a new intermediary," says the report. "Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public."

Does your publishing platform empower your readers?

At SXSW, a solid indicator of trends in tech, GroupMe won the Breakout Digital Trend Award. GroupMe combines geolocation features -- users can find each others' locations on a map -- which was big last year, with group text, which is big this year. Users of GroupMe, a free app for iPhones, BlackBerrys and Androids in which up to 25 people can share a conversation, currently sends out about a million text messages a day.

"Marketing strategy in 2011 evolves directly from the location based marketing of 2010," says Mashable's Ashley Brown. "We have found that messages are most successfully communicated to audiences that have already coalesced around common bonds."

What follows from the location-based marketing of 2010? Check-ins are so 2010, but when combined with group messaging, you have a compelling and amazingly useful social networking app. However, group messaging works along the principle that people want to communicate in real time with a core group of real friends. This is so contrary to the standard operating procedure of legacy media, with its gatekeepers. How can publishers leverage the trend in group chat apps? 

It really depends on how you define "group."

It would appear that hyperlocals, with their highly trusted, user-generated content, have the most to gain from any rise in the fortunes of the geolocation and group messaging. Start-ups like GoTootie, which is geared towards group hyperlocal conversation, could conceivably have a great impact. GoTootie, a location-based microblogging site, allows messages to be "broadcast" to a specific location and not followers like on Twitter. How condusive is this platform to geoshopping?

Beyond geographical proximity -- which is, of course, hugely monetizeable through couponing -- there is also ideological proximity. Could journals of opinion, infamously unprofitable, gain in their digital incarnations from the same forces that make hyperlocal all the rage? Publishers, particular political publishers, can learn a lot from the online successes of social enterprises.

The most recent, largest digital social enterprise success in the "ideological proximity" space is President Obama's 2008 campaign, which raised half a billion dollars online. People are political and people are polarized, but can publishers make a profit? Just ask Arianna Huuffington -- and even she will tell you that a killer platform is key. And now Huffington has -- bringing things back to hyperlocal -- Patch.

Devolution -- a big all-purpose buzzword in the 90s -- has never been more relevant than it is now. Institutions are in decline; there is a move towards the bottom-up, towards DIY as opposed to top-down management.

Haydn Shaunessey, writing in Forbes, extrapolates from Biz Stone's new social media role at Huffington Post that we are in the midst of a new naturalism. "The new naturalist mentality is to forge small narrow paths that make sense." Further, "They are empowered by each other."

Once more, with gusto: Does your publishing platform empower your readers?

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