Will global brands out-localize local publishers?

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Having crawled the Web indexing whatever knowledge wasn’t nailed shut, the global media brands are now drilling down to the neighborhood level, says Hollywood Reporter’s Diane Mermigas in a column written in the lull between two big industry trade shows. After all, she writes:

“What’s more important than the grocery list, community services, local movie times, car maintenance, school schedules, home repairs, pet care and children’s activities that is the “local” glue holding together everyone’s lives. It’s the kind of electronic “to do” list and personal community-based content that everyone needs.”

What great features these would be for a local weblog to build (call it a placeblog, to use a new monicker). But Mermigas believes it will be Big Media Brands that create these consumer-friendly online tools — and that they will be stitched together “with consumers’ individual electronic payments, phone service, scheduling, budgeting and personalized comparison shopping.”

What a vision. We’ll plug into our trusted brands, point and click at our desires and they will be delivered to our doors — after the appropriate debit is recorded. It sounds almost like prayer.

The tyranny of digitzation is that it may indeed be easier for powerful corporate brands to create such useful software utilities and then habituate us into using them. This would only lead to the further centralization of wealth and commerce, and the further weakening of local communities.

But Mermigas, writing in the downtime between two back-to-back trade events, the Consumer Electronics Show and the National Association of Television Progam Executives conference, no doubt correctly perceives the ambitions of the Big Media Brands. And their abilities.

Local online publishers will be hard pressed to evolve tools such as she describes. And if bits and pieces of the digital to-do list were home grown, how would these scale? Would any Open Source sharing spread them as effectively as, say, a Yahoo?

The current media revolution will be a hollow event if locals lose control of their local economies. And yet if there is any mechanism that empowers grassroots media to build up networks — rather than let them be handed down — I have yet to see it.

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Noted in passing  . . .  Or rather overlooked in yesterday’s homage to the WSJ, was the fact that venerable Time Magazine has also reinvented itself to be more of a web-print hybrid. MediaPost says the new and improved Time.com will feature, among other things, “a news aggregator (called The Ag) summarizing top stories from major newspapers and blogs around the world that will be posted to the site at 7:00 each morning.”

Thanks to Poynter for two great bits. Tish Grier points to BlogNetNews.com as a way to search for local pundits in more than 20 states. And A. Adam Glenn notes that an annual birdwatching event that enlists amateur observers could be a model for complex citizen journalism efforts. “This annual citizen science effort is the Christmas Bird Count, which runs for several weeks in early winter. It uses tens of thousands of volunteers to collect widely dispersed data from hundreds of sites around the country.” (Click to read Grier’s bit; or Glenn’s note.