It appears the Cincinnati Enquirer is about to take yet another step along the scale of social media innovation by a traditional media member to help increase reader loyalty, advertiser commitment and continued relevance in their market despite the industry trends plaguing most of their brethren. I stumbled across a new location-based service application doing some research in the iTunes App Store called Porkappolis (iTunes link)– a hyper-local, location-based service focused on the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky market. The author of the app? Enquirer Media.
The application offers standard LBS functionality, but in a hyper-local, custom skin. Cincinnati was once the slaughterhouse capital of the U.S. and has been known as “Porkopolis” and the Pig City for years. Cincinnati.com cleverly named the application after the moniker. What’s even more cool is that coupons, deals and helpful tips in the app are found under the heading of “Bacon.” Awesomeness.
The application has some variations on the themes. You get stickers for checking in, visiting different countries (I assume … gave me one for the U.S.), etc. You are ranked in a leader board with others in your network and globally. (My first checkin ranked me 19th in the world and I was 10th after leaving a recommendation for a nearby restaurant … it’s not limited to Cincinnati use … so you know this thing is brand, spanking new.) There’s a tab for finding your friends, but also one for finding “locals” to help you connect with other users who are close, but you may not know. Overall, it’s like the other LBS’s (Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl), but different enough to be interesting.
But the addition of a hyper-local, custom, location-based application to a traditional media effort (the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati.com are Gannett properties) is more than interesting. It shows a traditional media outlet again thinking beyond the boundaries of the print edition and even of their website. The opportunities to monetize a locally-relevant LBS are profound. It’s a chance for local advertisers to serve relevant messages to a hip and trendy audience in an emerging platform, but one that is custom to their community.
And I say, “once again,” because the Cincinnati Enquirer has been the bleeding edge digital leader for Gannett’s attempt at transformation. James Jackson explained a lot about their business model with citizen blogging and utilizing social media to me back in August of 2008.
What Porkappolis does is take the national or international play of a Foursquare and makes it more relevant by making it local. Because the Enquirer is pushing it, there will be far more per capita adoption of the tool locally than of others after its initial launch. Why would Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati-based restaurant, spend money with one of the biggies if they know there’s a large adoption rate for Porkappolis in their core market?
For the record, I found a post on Cincinnati.com from November 17 talking about what Porkappolis is, but it’s not something I could find any record of being mentioned publicly. There are several posts and what-not that seem tied to the company getting the app approved and through some cursory sites that look at apps specifically, but no coverage of it. The post I found looks to be a landing page for people asking what it is.
I reached out to my contacts at Gannett’s corporate offices, who knew what I was talking about, but politely encouraged me to talk to the Cincinnati folks about it. Since I discovered this late tonight, they probably haven’t seen my messages yet. I’m sure they will in the comments. Plus, there’s enough out there online to make me believe the app’s publicity is about to happen. You can download it from the app store now, so it’s there, even if the URL lands on a page that says it’s in private beta.
Jim Lenahan, a product developer for Gannett media company, has several check-ins using the app posted on his Twitter page starting Nov. 20th. There is a Porkappolis Twitter account saying the launch is coming soon. I also found a Facebook application page (one of my Gannett contacts was listed as a ‘Friend using this App.’ Interesting.)
So, at the risk of jumping the gun on this, there it is. I sure hope their launch is, in fact, looming. It certainly impressed me and is a digital strategy I would assume many other newspapers or local media outlets will try to emulate in the coming months. Sure, I’m making assumptions on how they might use it, but I’ve talked to Jackson before and know he doesn’t just throw noodles on the wall to see what sticks. You can bet there’s not only thought, but business goals behind this. And it just might be cool enough to catch on.
What do you think? Could a hyper-local LBS make a local newspaper’s efforts more relevant to newer generations? Digital savvy users? Coupon-seeking readers? The comments are yours.
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