David Cohn, the founder of Spot.us (and one of our advisers) recently posted his thoughts about the creation of what he calls a Newsroom Café. In David’s rendering, it would be a hybrid space, with a backroom or second floor where local reporters could do their work, and a public café up front where folks could stop in for a bagel, a cup of coffee, and wifi. Such a café could become a community watering hole where local residents might mingle with reporters, and share a suggestion, a criticism, or maybe a news tip.
David’s post received a wave of enthusiastic comments. The idea of a real chat room for news instead of another virtual one obviously struck a chord — and that got us thinking about another idea….
What if National Geographic gave its members the online tools to organize local book groups, where the book under discussion was the latest issue of National Geographic? It’d be relatively simple to do: A programmer could mash up the NGM mailing list with Google Maps. The resulting web application would enable me to enter my zip code and retrieve the names of nearby Society members who also want to get together once a month to talk about what they’ve seen in the Magazine. Instead of staring at our computer screens, we could meet up on a Sunday afternoon in a neighbor’s living room, drink some coffee or tea or Red Bull, and have a snack while we discussed the global food crisis, or marveled at Visions of Earth, or scrutinized the coverage of Christians in the Holy Land.
The cost to the Society would be minimal. Promotion could be done in a department page. Discussion guides could be posted online. And the added value to membership would be huge: We’d no longer be just consumers of a magazine, or eyeballs for ads. Instead, we’d be members of a community, connecting with other people — in person. We’d be putting the “social” back in “social network.” We’d be armchair travelers who finally link arms. Along the way, we might also make some new friends. All made possible by our Society.
Think of it as Cheers — not quite as funny, maybe, but with much better pictures.