'FollowIndy: An iTunes for News'

I’m still waiting to hear back on FollowIndy’s status in Round Two of the Knight News Challenge for this year, but I wanted to take a moment to give a clearer picture of where I plan to take it, regardless of Knight funding.

For several years now, I’ve found software inspiration in an odd place: iTunes, the ubiquitous music-management software behind all those iPods and iPhones Apple has sold. Most newspaper intelligentsia focus on the iTunes Store, looking for a way out of the media’s revenue woes.

Meanwhile, I looked at the iTunes application itself and at the way it made a formerly tedious task — finding and organizing your music — fun, useful and good for hours of time-wasting knob-tweaking.

It also has the added benefit of making it easy to unearth favorite music, both old and new, a variety of different ways.

I’ve already built a photo and gallery management system that drew some inspiration from iTunes. With FollowIndy, I ultimately want to take that inspiration to another level and apply it to news in general.

It starts with making sure there’s a good base of content. FollowIndy currently has that, but I want to add more. There are a lot of smaller publications in the Indianapolis metro area that I’m not yet including and even more newsworthy blogs.

If I know about it, I want FollowIndy to have it.

But I will never know everything. And sometimes, Indy-relevant news happens outside of Indy-area news organizations. The recent machinations involving Evan Bayh and earlier Tim Durham bear witness to that.

What I intend to build is any easy way to add content ala carte to FollowIndy. A way that adds the content as a first-class citizen with all the metadata of everything else.

Once we have all that data, the fun can begin.

I want FollowIndy to have playlists of news: user-defined user-sorted playlists, smart playlists and even genius playlists of news that allow users to find, organize and disseminate the news they care about, regardless of source.

And I want to make that fun, useful and good for hours of time-wasting knob-tweaking.

As I mentioned at the start, I want FollowIndy to do this regardless of how the Knight funding turns out. And it will do this regardless of how the Knight funding turns out.

What winning a Knight grant gets me is the ability to choose fast and good from the matrix of good, fast and cheap. Right now, I’m forced to go the route of good and cheap.

And the work begins anew tonight.

Chris Vannoy @v