With a recent spike in demand for local business news, local news organizations are now scrambling to find new ways to provide it.
But there’s one area in particular that has become a popular target: the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.
A survey by the Minneapolis Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) suggests that the city has the highest percentage of people who don’t use social media, and that’s driving some local businesses to turn to new tools to provide local news.
But some local officials aren’t letting the city off the hook, saying they don’t need more resources for social media.
“There’s a real need for people to use the web as a way to interact with the media and the public, and we are going to continue to push that forward,” Minneapolis City Council Member Jacob Frey told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Frey said his group’s findings don’t mean that Minneapolis is a digital utopia.
“It’s certainly not a utopia,” he said.
Frey and others are worried that Minneapolis’ lack of web apps could be a sign of things to come.
“We know that technology is a big part of how we communicate,” Frey said.
“But we also know that there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know what the word social media means.”
Frey says Minneapolis needs to create more social media apps for people in the city to be able to connect with their communities.
“You know, it’s a good thing that there’s more people in our city that can connect to us,” Frey added.
Frey is one of many local officials who are looking to the tech community to help solve the city’s digital news gap.
The City of Minneapolis is working to create a digital news platform for the city, which will be developed by local companies and will be part of a citywide project.
“The city will be the largest user of social media and a significant contributor to our city’s growth, but we also need to create tools to help people with that information, to make it easier to find what they need,” Frey told reporters.
Minneapolis City Mayor Chris Coleman has made a big push for the creation of a digital community, saying that the lack of social networks has created a “toxic environment” that he says is limiting the growth of the city.
“I think that we have a problem, and it’s not just the lack, but the lack is the lack.
And we can’t allow that toxic environment to continue,” Coleman said at a news conference last month.
The city will invest $100 million into the development of a new digital news app, which would allow users to find local news stories, create their own, and subscribe to local news publications.
“Our goal is to build a platform for anyone to be a contributor, be a fan, be part user, to create their content, and then connect with the city and the world,” Coleman added.
A few months after the news conference, Minneapolis launched a new app called Cityscape, which is designed to make sharing local news easier.
The app will allow users “to share content, find content, search for content, discover content, create a timeline of events, and create content that’s unique to them.”
“What we’re really trying to do is give the public a way for them to connect, find their stories, and connect with others in the community,” Mayor Coleman said.
Coleman also has been promoting his new citywide Digital News Lab, which aims to help the city build digital tools for the public and businesses.
The Lab is now offering free content to city employees, and Coleman said he hopes to create another app that allows for sharing of real-time events.
“And then we’re also hoping to be adding more tools that we think will help the public make sense of information,” Coleman told the Star Tribune last month, adding that he wants the citywide lab to be “the backbone of the Cityscape platform.”
Coleman has also been pushing to create an app that connects to city services like transit, which many local businesses are looking at for new ways of reaching their customers.
“If you look at what’s happening with transit in Minneapolis right now, you know there are so many options to be on,” Minneapolis Transit CEO John Cawley told reporters last month at a conference.
“So there are many ways that people can find out what’s going on.”
Cawler said the new digital tools he and his fellow leaders are working on are aimed at improving the quality of the information that people have access to on the transit system.
“They want people to be connected to the city in a way that’s not confusing, that’s clear, and they want people and the communities that they’re connecting to to be engaged,” Cawier said.