NewsCloud, which developed the Minnesota Daily Facebook application and HotDish, is offering the source code to other college papers interested in customizing it and managing it themselves. (Disclaimer: I was editor of the Daily when we launched the application.)
The application allows users to post links to articles that they find interesting and rewards them for doing so. Users also get points for engaging the content in other ways, such as sharing it with their friends, commenting on it, etc. The user is rewarded with points that add up to prizes that the news organization offers.
The application, I think, has a lot of potential to be used as a business model for news organizations through the rewards system. The basic idea is that they could sell the “challenges” to business. A business pays to have a challenge that rewards a user that attends their restaurant or visits their website, etc. This could be a form of direct advertising for the business and a reward for the user. For more on this idea, check out the column I wrote for the Daily before the launch, or visit Tara George’s recent story on Poynter.org that outlines the application.
The application can be quite useful for any news organization. At the Minnesota Daily, the application helped us refer thousands of Facebook users to the MnDaily.com website. In one month, the Daily had 15,000 visitors through Facebook. These are users that may have never visited the site before.
The news organization that uses the application is able to feature their own stories above the fold of the application. The application also has capability to feature slideshows, videos and gives users the ability to contribute their own blog posts. Users also can share articles that aren’t related to the news organization. It’s all about creating a sense of community through the social media site.
Because stories are so viral on Facebook, it is a great tool to enhance the interlinking of stories on the Web and bring more readers to a news site. NewCloud, the Seattle-based news aggregator that developed the application, is offering the code or their services. News organizations can hire NewsCloud to manage it for them. If you have questions about how it worked for the Daily, I would be happy to share.