YDR Insider

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The YDR.com mobile media lab would be a vehicle for change

Steve Buttry, our company’s Director of Community Engagement & Social Media, wants fresh ideas for improving the relationships between the York Daily Record/Sunday News and our community. He’d like us to find new ways to do some of the great things being done at The (Torrington, Conn.) Register Citizen., which you can read about here.

In a challenge to every newsroom working for Digital First Media, Buttry recently wrote:

I am writing to encourage you to apply to be one of 10 to 12 Digital First Media newsrooms opening a physical Community Media Lab in your community in during 2012.

…(T)ell us about your community and its situation and needs, and how you will serve your community through this project … We are not asking you to replicate what Torrington did, but to be as creative in devising a way to physically engage and serve your community.

Not a problem. Here’s our pitch for a new way to serve you, the people of York County. I’m going to share this with Buttry. In fact, this is going to serve as our bid for his support of this project. Read it over and please let us know what you think. Your ideas are key to making this work. Because whether we get the wheels for this plan or not (read on), we’re going to make the ideas behind it work, one way or another.


The York Daily Record has a great story to tell about how we are serving more readers, more often and in more ways than ever before. It’s time to be more assertive in bringing this message to every corner of our 900-square-mile county.

Our newsroom is outside of the city and away from foot traffic. Few people would venture to this location to take advantage of an on-site media lab. Even if we were downtown, many of you would still not be likely to visit us. The culture of the southern part of York County points toward Baltimore. The northern tier gravitates toward Harrisburg. In this county of 72 municipalities, there really is no single hub.

When it comes to outreach, this community needs a visitor, not a guesthouse.

Most of your neighbors have not grasped how new media tools such as Facebook and Twitter, or blogs and video can help them share information and forge tighter bonds. Your typical Lions Club in York County, for instance, has not posted videos to YouTube that show off how it has helped the visually impaired. It’s doubtful that many ladies auxiliaries have used Facebook to boost turnout to a pot pie supper to help raise money for their volunteer fire department.

That’s why we use the many platforms associated with “Buffy’s World” and “Ask Joan” and our staff blogs to engage with the new media pioneers in York County and to seed further interest in the areas of social media and hyper-local content.

Now we want to extend these efforts. We want to reach more people who need our help. We want to develop new audiences.

And so we propose a Mobile Media Lab, a vehicle that will take our journalists, our marketing team and our circulation and ad sales teams to wherever the people of York County gather. It will become, quite literally, a vehicle for change in this community.

We envision a van or SUV that is wrapped in a bold display of our branding – an eye-catching vehicle that you will come to recognize and to associate with our multiplatform services. We already have some old delivery vans and trucks that can be converted. Just picture one of these old things …

dressed up with some graphic wraps such as these!


We would supplant a traditional role played by radio stations – back when there were real people behind the mic – and go beyond the self-serving marketing role of a “live-spot truck.” We would identify the “Jobs To Be Done” in your community, chart ways that we can help you, and use the Mobile Media Lab to engage you on your turf.

Where would we take it?

Let’s assume that we can get this on the road by March 1. It’s easy to envision how quickly we could fill a calendar with special appearances at events we already plan to attend:

  • March 2 — First Friday in Downtown York (FlipSide entertainment mag staff)
  • March 3 — High school basketball game (GameTimePa.com staff)
  • March 7 — Penn State York, Editor James McClure scheduled to discuss the effects of WWII on York County
  • March 10 — High school wrestling tournament
  • March 17 — Ride in the York St. Patrick’s Day parade — the second-biggest parade of the year.
  • March 19 — YDR.com’s Congressional Candidates’ Night at York College
  • March 26 — Think Drink — A monthly gathering of young movers and shakers in York.
  • March 27 — York College, Managing Editor Randy Parker scheduled to discuss Citizens Agenda approach to covering politics

More generally, we would take this vehicles to such events as:

What would we do with it once we got there?

We would tailor each appearance to the specific audience, but the many possibilities include:

  • Show you how you to use our new digital services
  • Walk you through our many databases, such as the popular Teacher’s Salary Database.
  • Use databases, such as See Click Fix, to demonstrate how we have covered your specific community.
  • Gather your ideas for stories
  • Conduct How To Get It Published seminars
  • Offer focused seminars such as “Eight ways that you are the author for ydr.com
  • Conduct contests and giveaways with crowds. We’ve had success with this at minor league baseball games where we tweet trivia to the crowd and award prizes at the press box.
  • Let you meet the journalists
  • Live Tweet, live stream
  • Draw crowds to events
  • Help out with charity fundraisers
  • Demonstrate services we offer such as job hunting
  • Demonstrate the value of advertising with us
  • Fill out survey cards
  • Sign people up for contests and giveaways
  • Use a video booth to gather StoryCorp-style oral histories
  • Remote edit board meetings
  • Use flat screen TV to show 2-minute video on behind-the-scenes at YDR
  • Deputize you and your neighbors as “Citizen Journalists”
  • Stream all of our latest Help Wanted and For Sale classifieds across the flat screen
  • Help under-covered communities understand that we care, and show them how to gain more and better coverage

We would share our experiences from each event right here at The YDR Insider blog. We could cover them from time to time in the hyperlocal Weekly Record or Your News sections of our paper.

Your ownership of this lab starts with the crowdsourcing that occurs with an article such as this. You can give us feedback on this idea right here, or via FacebookTwitter and Google+, where we have already asked our friends, fans, followers and readers for their ideas.

It will continue with a naming contest for the vehicle. It will be sustained with an online calendar showing you where the vehicle is scheduled to appear, and an online submission form you can use to request an appearance.

Equipped with half a dozen laptops, a few iPads and smartphones, a Wi-Fi hotspot and a flatscreen display, we will pull up to any location prepared to demonstrate the many ways we create and curate content. We will help you download our apps onto your mobile devices, subscribe to our publications and sites, answer your questions, hear your ideas, receive your criticism and convey our sense of service to the community. We have experience with all this and more through marketing appearances and creative use of our reporters at various events. The mobile media lab will boost the visibility, impact and memorability of this critical component of community engagement.

We also believe that we can do this on a shoestring budget. Take a look at our financial proposal:

York Daily Record Mobile Media Lab Cost Projections


Use existing vehicle

Convert existing truck or van that is available from our delivery fleet. We have two older vehicles that need a bit of work, but would look terrific if wrapped with high-end graphic branding.

Cost: Minimal (Inspection, minor repairs — $500)

Graphic ad wrap: $5,000 (Would seek trade or sponsorship to reduce or eliminate costs)

Gas, maintenance — $4,000 a year



Wi-fi hot-spot — $1,200 a year (Allows for up to 10 connections)

Six laptops — $3,600 ($600 per. To use for demos of our digital innovations.)

Six iPads — $3,000 ($500 per, 16 gig, wi-fi only. To use for demos of our tablet apps and other digital innovations.)

Six smart phones –No cost (Underwritten by, and in trade with, Verizon)

Video screen –$1,000 (Would seek trade or sponsorship to reduce or eliminate costs)

Pop-up tents — $300 (Needed for shelter from sun and rain. Two tents, with our brands emblazoned on the tops)

Six Folding tables and 12 chairs –$700

Total estimated cost: $10,000 – $16,000, depending on sponsors and trade partners

So there it is, folks. That’s the York Daily Record’s plan for boosting community engagement, for working directly with the people of York County to identify what you see as your biggest concerns and to connect you with solutions.

This mobile media lab will be flexible enough to change as your needs change. But establishing this as a key part of our branding and marketing holds our feet to the fire to stay with you.

How about it? Do we have your support? Would you advise Steve Buttry to approve this plan?

Up Next: Here’s why, if it were left to me, I’d call this thing The YES-UV.