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January 13 2011

21:04

SochiReporter Becomes Major Russian Media Player in 2010

2010 was a very good year for us at SochiReporter SochiReporter.ru. In late December we took time to analyze the year's achievements and, to be frank, I was excited about the list of various activities SochiReporter initiated or participated in.

Of course, I try to be cautious about praising myself and our team too much, as satisfaction is always a killer of development and a friend of stagnation. The undeniable good news, however, is that SochiReporter launched in the fall of 2009 and we managed to reach some serious heights in 2010, especially on the marketing side of the product.

SochiReporter is a citizen journalism platform that reports on the preparations for the Olympics, by the people and for the people. As a result of our efforts, the site is today one of the most advanced websites in Sochi, especially when it comes to interactive tools, features, and design. Its possibilities and potential are enormous and still to be realized in many ways. SochiReporter is the best Drupal website in Sochi and one of the best Drupal sites in all of Russia, according to the Russian Drupal community and the local programming community. Right from the start, the project was designed to be much more than just a blog, or a news wire; we envisioned it as a multi-functional tool that can also be an educational platform. SochiReporter is the first global initiative to build a unified digital archive of the multimedia resources about the preparation of the host city for the Olympics.

Stories about the transformation of the city were abundant in 2010. Just recently we received a report about the demolition of the "iron flea market," where an office and shopping center will soon be built. Citizen reporters are able to express how these kinds of changes affect the daily lives of residents.

2010 Highlights

SochiReporter enjoyed wide media coverage from both traditional and online media. Our site was featured in about 300 online media articles, 13 TV reports (that were aired 30 times), and over 20 newspaper stories. Here's a quick list of some of the key activities I engaged in over the past year:

  • I organized roundtables and participated in a number of professional conferences, presenting SochiReporter in Russia and worldwide.
  • I negotiated with and attracted our first partners.
  • I worked to raise the number of users, utilizing social media and other platforms to spread the word.
  • I communicated with potential advertisers, delivering presentations in their offices and meeting with them in other venues.
  • I worked to diversify the number of topics covered on the website, and increase the brand awareness nationally and globally.

To put it in a nutshell, my activities were aimed at strengthening our young brand.

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And here's a look back at some of the highlights from 2010:

January: Cooperating with McDonald's
SochiReporter supported McDonald's International Child Day on November 20. The Ronald McDonald Foundation is working to open child-care rooms in Russian hospitals all over the country (about 10 rooms are already open). SochiReporter, along with just a few other media outlets, helped with charity activities that raised 10 million rubles towards opening three more rooms in three other Russian cities. We partnered with McDonald's for a similar project early this year.

January: A Mobile Journalist School for the Students of Sochi
We organized a two-day seminar offering tips on how to blog, use social networking, and generate content. Professors from the faculty of journalism at Moscow State University took part as lecturers.

February: Sochi Winter Music Conference
SochiReporter was selected to be a media partner of the fifth Sochi Winter Music Conference, a two-day business forum and three-day music program. SWMC brings together well-known figures in show business, music journalists, DJs, producers, promoters, record company owners and managers, radio and TV presenters, brand managers, and music festival organizers. These creative, active and talented people are also sophisticated web users. Thanks to this collaboration, all of the 1,500 participants left with a SochiReporter leaflet in their conference bag.

February: Winter Olympics in Vancouver
SochiReporter participated in the Fresh Media Olympics conference. I Skyped into the conference from Sochi to connect with the dozens of bloggers and citizen reporters who gathered to cover the Winter Olympics.

June: Kinotavr
SochiReporter was selected to be the media partner of Russia's second largest film festival, Kinotavr. We were the only Sochi media to be named a media partner. (Other media partners were big Moscow-based media outlets as the Channel 5, STS, Hello! Magazine, etc.).

June: MIT Center for Future Civic Media Conference
This conference was one of the highlights of the year. After attending, I spent a week in Nebraska as the first Innovator in Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Journalism School, where I met with students and faculty members and presented SochiReporter.

October: Abandon Normal Devices
I presented SochiReporter at the Abandon Normal Devices festival of new cinema and digital culture in Manchester, U.K. I also participated in the one-day #Media2012 conference.

October: Paralympics Action
SochiReporter reporters organized Paralympics Action to spread knowledge about the Paralympics and the Paralympic values in Sochi. This event was also aimed at supporting the creation of an accessible environment for disabled people. SochiReporter will continue to work on this important theme.

English Translation, Roundtables, Mapping
In 2010, SochiReporter started translating citizen journalists' posts into English. We also organized a number of roundtable discussions, including one on how residents of the city can unite on the web to fight smoking. I also spoke at a World Health Organization anti-smoking symposium in Sochi, I also moderated a roundtable on user-generated content at Michigan State University. Participants were the heads of seven leading Russian Internet sites. We continued our collaboration with Kodak, which saw digital cameras given to our citizen reporters. We also worked with Kodak to outline a Moscow replica of SochiReporter. Finally, back in Sochi, we initiated and fostered the creation of the OpenStreetMap of Sochi, which you can see below.

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I hope 2011 is just as exciting and eventful.

October 15 2010

15:00

The Marriage of Social Media and the Olympics Is Inevitable

I've just returned from England where I spoke at the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) event, an independently funded festival of new cinema and digital culture. It was held in the Cornerhouse, a 25-year-old arts and media space located in the heart of Manchester. My presentation was part of the #media2012 session dedicated to the growing importance of social media in covering the Olympics, and during the preparations for the Games. The event drew artists, designers, researchers and new media folks from many corners of the world, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Scandinavia.

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Social Media and the Olympics

A special session on social media and the Olympics was organized by Andy Miah, a professor in emerging technologies at the University of the West of Scotland. He's a very well known Olympics culture researcher, and he posed a challenging and thought-provoking question, "Will citizen media take over the 2012 event?"

Miah built a very interesting one-day long program that drew charismatic and knowledgeable speakers. The goal was to have discussions "focused on opportunities, strategy and vision to create a publicly owned new media legacy for the Games." Miah also presented a media blueprint for London 2012, which emphasized the significant role of the new media in covering the Games.

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Fortunately, the modern Olympic movement doesn't view the Internet as a threat (as it had). The IOC has started taking steps towards embracing the Net, and that trend seems to be continuing. It's obvious that the future of the Olympics strongly depends on the openness towards, and readiness to accept, new technology. With social media reinventing activism, the Games have a chance to get more people engaged in order to create positive change. And even more important, new media enables organizers to build a public archive of the preparations for the Olympics and the Olympics themselves. The legacy of the Olympic Games is one of the most important issues that the IOC and host country address every time the Olympics is organized. New media are the best tools to preserve and spread the legacy.

Presentation and Discussion

While in Manchester I gave a presentation about SochiReporter and participated in the discussion that followed. I spoke after Kris Krug, one of the creators of the True North Media House, which was established during the Vancouver Games. (Read more about it here.) My presentation was followed by one from Josi Paz of Brazil. He told us how the former Brazilian president had cried when he learned that Rio won its bid, and described the current state of preparations for the Games.

I first met Professor Miah virtually when I Skyped into the W2 Community Media Arts Fresh Media Olympics event back in February 2010. The folks at W2 in Vancouver organized an exciting discussion about social media's growing role in the coverage of the Olympics. The Vancouver Games were truly a breakthrough when it came to the engagement of bloggers; the expectation is that new media will only become more involved in telling the story of the Olympics.

During the event in England, Ruth McKenzie, the director of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Organizing Committee, pointed out that during the Olympics the London 2012 website expects a peak of 6 million visitors a day. They plan to turn the site into a platform for presenting the culture and soul of Britain.

AND festival Manchester_.jpg

A Natural Fit

In reality, the popularity and the accessibility of digital media basically requires the organizers of big events such as the Olympic to do their jobs better. The ability for anyone to document anything on their mobile phone and produce high-quality footage is something that organizers have to keep in mind. Fifteen years ago the big media played the role of a watchdog; today everyone is a watchdog.

Here's the simple truth: the Olympics are global and the web is global. What could be more logical than to marry the two? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

September 14 2010

20:07

English-Language Content a Boon to SochiReporter in Russia

On Monday, September 27, SochiReporter will begin publishing in English.

From that point on, every Monday will see us publish new exclusive stories about ongoing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and about life in four of the Big Sochi main areas: Central Sochi, Adler, Khosta and Lazarevskoye. (We will be translating the Russian posts submitted by our citizen journalists.)

Vancouver Test Case

As I previously wrote on Idea Lab, we began testing an English version of SochiReporter during the Vancouver Olympics. We then hired Yuliya Talmazan, a Russian-speaker from Vancouver who worked as an editor at NowPublic, to cover the Olympics for us. We wanted to see what English content would do for our traffic. Simply put, it had a significant effect, driving our traffic up over 300 percent.

Yes, those weeks in February were a hot time for anything Olympics-related. Thousands of people were surfing the web looking for the information about the Games. Our headlines were crafted and customized according to SEO principles in order to attract that traffic and deliver news about what was going on in Vancouver with the Russian team.

We are currently in the process of translating content for our English version, as August and September saw the significant rise in the number of posts at SochiReporter. What makes me especially happy is that the journalistic quality of stories has improved -- that's partly why I made the decision to start translating into English. At first, we will translate about 60 to 70 percent of every post in order to convey the core idea of the story.

SochiReporter.Ru Posts

We're very happy with how the posts on our site are starting to evolve. To give just a few examples, we've received a story about the public hearings related to the reconstruction of the Sochi embankment; the transformation and rebuilding of one of the city's main hotels; the opening of a new center that will provide municipal services to the citizens of Sochi; the creation of an open-air fitness club; a mini-golf championship in Sochi; the arrival of new wolves at the nature reserve; and the start of an around-the-world voyage of a famous sailor and an honored citizen of Sochi and Newport, R.I., Victor Yazikov; and many, many more.

Another interesting story was about Sochi residents who were collecting the clothes and other donations for residents of central Russian towns who lost their houses in the fierce summer peat fires.

All of these stories inspired discussion at SochiReporter.Ru.

June 30 2010

19:11

Serving as Media Innovator in Residence at University of Nebraska

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Flying over Lincoln, Nebraska, aboard a Delta jet, I peered down at the gently rolling meadows, farmlands and the statue on the peak of the high-rise state capitol, which is situated the heart of this cute town.

The state capitol tower, a historic landmark, is one of the few places in the United States where all three branches of government are housed in one building.

I am on my way back to New York City after spending a wonderful and very efficient week at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as its first Media Innovator in Residence.

The position is part of the new program being enacted by Gary Kebbel, the new dean of the college who officially starts tomorrow. He invited me to spend six days in town to meet with faculty and students and speak about SochiReporter and the project's developments. The idea was for me to share my experiences and participate in discussions about the future of new media. 

Lectures and Active Discussions

As Kebbel put it, one of the central ideas of this program is that active entrepreneurs -- people who are right in the middle of working on their projects -- visit the college, demonstrate their work and also focus on the questions and issues not yet resolved. One of the main questions that I ponder is how to make our website sustainable. What new media business model -- or combination of models -- will keep the site running after the Knight grant money runs out in a couple of months?

While visiting the school, I gave six lectures that eventually turned into vibrant discussions with  students. In a marketing class we discussed the partnerships that SochiReporter forged with local media, the ways to promote SochiReporter online and offline, and the SochiReporter-McDonald's partnership.

In the design and advertising class, one of the students said she would be interested in working out a plan for the global marketing strategy for SochiReporter. In the reporting class, the students were especially interested in the kinds of stories being generated by our citizen reporters, how the moderation process works, and how we package stories at the website. They wondered which kinds of stories actually cause change and influence the decisions made by the city officials. The students also viewed SochiReporter as an outlet for possible internships next year.

I also spoke to students at the College of Business Administration and with Dr. Sang M. Lee, a distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Management. We discussed the possible business models based on attracting global and local businesses.

What I found interesting is that in about three weeks Lincoln is hosting a Special Olympics event that will attract thousands of visitors from all over the country. This creates a direct bridge between Lincoln and Sochi, the host of the 2014 Olympics.

I really clicked with Jordan Pascale, a student and staff writer with the Lincoln Journal Star. The newspaper is organizing a new unit to cover the Special Olympics and produce content for the print and the online versions of the paper. Pascale said the plan is to post more original content online than usual and to experiment with it. We talked about the ways of integrating the citizens of Lincoln into covering this event. Some of the school's journalism students will volunteer at the Games and will also be blogging about it.

Trip to Omaha

At one point Dean Kebbel and I took a trip to Omaha to meet with the publisher, executive editor and advertising executives of the Omaha World-Herald, the largest newspaper in the state. It took us 50 minutes driving one way, and I found Omaha to be a fast-developing city with cheerful residents who are excited about the construction of a new, big stadium.


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Publisher and company president Terry Kroeger and the vice-president for news and content Larry King (whom I jokingly complemented on his his CNN show when we first met) were open and excited about collaborating with the school. They agreed with Kebbel's statement that the future of journalism builds upon traditional values of quality reporting by using new technologies to enable people to get news in any format, any time, on any device. (The above photo shows Joanna Nordhues from UNL along with Gary Kebbel and Mike Reilly, executive editor of the Omaha World-Herald.)

We spent more than three hours in the newspaper's office, and it was also entertaining to meet with the paper's cartoonist Jeff Koterba. Aside from me, he had a very unusual visitor in his office, as you can see below.


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One final interesting fact about the school is that faculty members all just received iPads, and it was great to see them all downloading and trying out applications. 

Serving as innovator in residence was a delightful and enriching experience. Since it's a long-term program, I'll always be the first -- but I definitely won't be the last.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

May 27 2010

17:15

SochiReporter Helps Transform Sochi in Preparation for Olympics

I recently spoke with a friend of mine here in Sochi, Russia. She is a specialist in modernizing the technological infrastructure of sanatoriums, which were the places where lucky Soviet working class heroes would be sent to rest and relax. (Think of them as health spas.)

It's a challenge to transform the Soviet-era sanatoriums. For example, her job entails computerizing the files and data and modernizing the registration of new clients. But she said it's exciting work. For her, the most enjoyable part of the job is organizing courses for the staff (doctors, waiters, janitors) who at first seem dazed and confused by the changes and new technology. Gradually, their puzzlement gives way to excitement. "How come we were doing this job manually for so many years?" they eventually ask.

I can definitely relate to her experience, as can many people who are trying to modernize different aspects of Sochi culture and society for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games. It's not just about the modernization of the sanatoriums; it's about every aspect of the locals' lifestyle and the character of the infrastructure. Of course, this is what makes this process of transformation so exciting.

Our project, SochiReporter, a hyper-local citizen news website, is working to create an archive of these changes -- an archive that is built by and for locals. It's never boring, but there is still much work and learning to be done.

Over the last several weeks we have been working at mastering our own technology. We added new features to the site, expanded the social networking component, added links to SochiReporter groups on other social networks, and will add more changes over the next two weeks. Also of note is that the website is loading much faster, partly because of some back-end work, and partly because the new 4G WiMax Internet service called Yota that was launched in Sochi at the end of March.

Becoming a Journalist-Entrepreneur

I have become part of the new breed of journalists-turned-entrepreneurs, and I'm finding a certain amount of pleasure in this lifestyle, crazy though it is.

First of all, I am living between two cities: Sochi and Moscow. Being in Sochi means working with contributors and the people who actually submit content to the website, and promoting the project at the local level. Moscow is a bigger source of financing, a business hub where I can meet with advertisers who might be interested in supporting SochiReporter.

Our team has recently been working on developing a sustainable business model, as the Knight Foundation grant money that enabled us to launch the project and start the experiment will soon run out.

Being an entrepreneur means being simultaneously responsive to two mobile phones, an iPad, a laptop and even a fax machine. It also means being very open to new collaborations and projects. You need to be open to taking risks, and adept at using the knowledge you acquired in traditional media reporting and applying it to new media.

Giving Newspapers a Chance

We recently decided to start giving the local Sochi papers, which don't have an online presence, an opportunity to place their content on our site. This section is called News and it's where we mostly have content from RSS feeds. It's separate from the Reports section, which is filled with reports from citizens and includes original content.

The editor of the first Sochi paper to go on our site is extremely happy about the arrangement. He had been seeking a presence on the web. For our part, we'll see how things go and will probably partner with additional local media. However, our main goal is to provide our content to local media. We hope to expand those possibilities by enabling people to submit reports and photos via mobile phone. Right now, people aren't able to upload content using their phone, though they can read the site.

Marketing

Just a final word about marketing, as it is now one of our primary goals. With the site now built and working, we are focused on telling people about it and getting them to use it. One way of doing that is by being part of big events in the area. We were recently chosen as a media sponsor for one of the biggest annual movie festivals in Russia, Kinotavr. It will take place in Sochi from June 6 to 13.

We are the only Sochi-based media outlet to be among the sponsors. The rest are Moscow-based media outlets. We will receive some very cool promotion during the event and the SochiReporter logo will be present in the Kinotavr daily newsletter, its brochures and on its website.

March 23 2010

18:55

SochiReporter Drives Traffic with 2010 Olympics Coverage

At SochiReporter, we looked at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (and Paralympics) as an important event that can move our site forward and attract more international users. I'm happy to say that our efforts have paid off with increased traffic and interest in the site.

During the Games, SochiReporter experienced a 350 percent increase in the number of European and North American visitors to the site. We also published several exclusive posts from Yuliya Talmazan, a Russian-speaker from Vancouver who works as an editor at NowPublic.

During the Olympics, Talmazan worked for NBC doing editorial research, and she also attended athletic events and other festivities during the Paralympic Games. I asked her to provide us with coverage of the Paralympics because they receive much less attention from global media. Having her on the ground during the Paralympics has given us some very unique content in all multimedia genres.

Also, beginning in February, SochiReporter changed its design to celebrate the Vancouver Games. The site's new background image is focused on winter sports and mixes blue, violet and magenta. The images feature athletes and reporters together, and we think the softer background colors do a better job of letting users focus on the site's content.

Olympics_eng_.JPG

Changing the design is part of our marketing activities, and we plan to keep on introducing new background images in the future. My feeling is that it's another way to tell a story and make the website more topical and relevant. For example, Google often alters its logo to celebrate holidays, and the iGoogle service allows people to customize their header. Twitter also allows users to choose from a wide range of skins, or to create their own.

New Tagline

Aside from the new background image, we introduced a new tagline for SochiReporter: "The news is me." It was inspired by the well-known saying, "The law is me," which was made by France's Louis XIV, the Sun King, in the 17th century. The tagline reflects the new realities and conveys the idea of citizen journalism, which is at the core of SochiReporter.

On a related note, the Vancouver Games were notable for the presence of citizen media and social media. There themes were explored in recent articles and photo essays on MediaShift.

Thanks to our work on the Vancouver Games, I've been receiving emails from people in Europe and Northern America. They tend to be either students inquiring about an internship within SochiReporter, people writing a thesis about social media who are interested in getting to know more about SochiReporter, or folks working in new media who are interested in how social media is being integrated into the traditional media content structure. In the end, our work during the Vancouver Games has helped build the global dialogue around SochiReporter and social media in general.

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December 16 2009

17:44

How the Olympics Can Thrive in the Digital Age

I'm honored to share that an essay I wrote was selected by the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the official book that was distributed at the Olympic Congress held in Copenhagen from October 3 to 5. This was a great opportunity, especially given our work on SochiReporter. Here's an image of the book's cover:

Cover VOC.JPG

I submitted my essay in March as part of the Virtual Olympic Congress, an open international competition that was announced by the IOC in the early fall of 2007. Here's what the IOC said about the competition:

Via the "Virtual Olympic Congress," a dedicated website, over 1,700 people from 90 countries submitted their thoughts on the five themes of the Congress following the "Call for Contributions" launched two years ago. The website was designed to accept written contributions on the themes of the Congress in the form of a written contribution of 1,000 words or less.

One hundred contributions from the general public were chosen by the Congress Editorial Committee for inclusion in the official Congress book, and 20 of those contributors were invited to Copenhagen to attend the Congress. Ten men and ten women from 15 countries around the world spent three days in the Danish capital along with the members of the Olympic family.

Nearly 1,400 Submissions

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Congress, the general public was given the opportunity to have their say on the topics being discussed at the gathering. The IOC invited contributions from anyone, anywhere in the world between October 2007 and March 2009.

The IOC asked people to write about one of five themes. The most popular theme was "Olympic Games: How to keep the Games as a premier event", which received 300 contributions out of 1,319; "Olympic Games: Olympic values" received roughly 240 contributions; and "Olympics and Youth: Moving towards an active society" received about 160 contributions. Roughly 100 submissions were devoted to my topic, which was "The Digital Revolution: How to increase the size of the sports audience." My piece was called, "Olympic Audiences in the Wired World."

In the end, there were 1,319 submissions from 1,148 contributors in 90 countries. Singapore was responsible for the most submissions (249), followed by the U.S. (176) and Japan (129). Interestingly, 276 of the submitted essays focused on rugby. This is because the International Rugby Board encouraged people to write in order to show their support for the inclusion of rugby in future Olympics.

Olympic Audiences in the Wired World

My essay ("Olympic Audiences in the Wired World") was devoted to the future of the Olympics in the digital age. I gave my vision of how the Olympic brand should evolve and adapt to the demands of the wired world, and how it can embrace the challenges brought by new technology. I suggested that the IOC experiment in exciting ways with new media in order to bring its message to communities throughout the world.

Here's an excerpt of my submission:

The answer [to increasing the size of the Olympics audience] lies in the essence of content and content diversification. It's important to provide TV and web viewers (who are getting more and more sophisticated) with more detailed, insider Olympic-related content. However, the focus point should be not just in relying more on the one-way online video streaming of the Games, but on attracting Internet users to shape virtual communities around the various aspects of the Olympic Games. This would enable the IOC representatives to more specifically aim at certain audiences and adjust the content and distribution methods to the demands of those audiences and groups...It is vital to offer effective ways of diversifying content in order to reach a larger and more effectively targeted audience.

In the digital age web users are not just content consumers. They are content producers. And this is the key point which should be considered when thinking about and shaping the successful future of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement in the new media era.

I then offered examples of how some media and entertainment industry giants realized the potential for interacting with their fans, and worked to create online communities and involve people in the marketing of their products. I described how this helped them to extend their brands.

One positive sign is that the IOC embraced social media to help promote the Virtual Olympic Congress. It created a Facebook page, and established an Olympic Congress YouTube channel. It also announced a new video contest that invites people to submit video responses to the question, "How do you see the future of the Olympics?"

Personally, I see the future of the Olympics as being inextricably linked to digital media and online communities. What do you think?

November 20 2009

18:20

SochiReporter Launches with Time Machine, Wiki Guidebook

I'm proud to say that SochiReporter, my Knight-funded project, launched on October 27. This was a very important day for me, and for our team.

In the days before the launch, I didn't sleep a wink. But this is natural. The less you sleep, the less you want. I was very excited about the launch, and did my best to convey how cool and innovative SochiReporter is to the journalists and students that gathered on launch day in the hall of one of the best schools in Sochi.

Generating Content

We have been working on this project for a long time, but we started generating content a few months back. At the end of July, we organized a seminar about the web and new media for students in Sochi. We also announced a contest that would give prizes for the best photos, text and video. So between August and October, students were generating content for the site. We provided the students with some nice gadgets to help with their reporting, as well as some basic knowledge about blogging and other skills. This meant we were able to launch with lots of original content.

Site Design and Structure

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For me, design is really important. As my designer friend who works for a lifestyle magazine told me, "folks are subconsciously attracted by good design." We had a great time working with four designers from Cetis, which is one of the leading design studios in Russia. I call our design "adrenaline." It's really colorful and bright, and each section has a personal touch. Please take a look and let us know what you think.

In terms of the structure of the site, I think we were innovators. As I understand it, innovation is a process that aims to combine existing tools to create a new product.

We created a section on the site called Time Machine. It enables a user to go back in time to any day (starting from October 2009) and see which material was uploaded. This is basically a way of archiving and storing information, and it's very useful when it comes to sites like ours.

Other innovative sections include the Guidebook, which is a wiki-based virtual guidebook of Sochi. (I wrote the first Russian guidebook of Norway when I was 21, so this section is important to me.). In order to create the Guidebook, I made agreements with the publisher of the best travel guidebook for Sochi to provide us with basic travel information. So we're start with information provided by professional travel writers. Then, as the city changes, users will be able to edit and add to the Guidebook. We already have some local students writing about Sochi's museums.

Marketing

We launched with a major presentation of SochiReporter at the 2009 Russian Internet Week. This is a big web industry exhibition organized in a huge venue in Moscow. It was great to be a part of this expo, and many people were interested in our project. We had a small but comfy stand with walls that were covered with samples from the site.

In Sochi, all of the local television channels covered the launch, as did the online media and some of the local papers. I realized how much the publicity helps when, days after the launch, I was recognized by a waiter in a café. He had seen me on television.

Thanks to our seminars back in July, most of the local journalists had already heard about SochiReporter. This helped create a sense of anticipation for our launch -- and helped make it a success so far.

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