Thursday, July 13, 2006

Columbia4Kids


This is another one of those sites you stumble across, and then you realize that had the local newspaper (not just the one here; this could apply in most any town) realized it had the "franchise" on this information initially, it could have had the market.

Instead, someone else has slipped in.

Columbia4Kids is a site I hadn't come across before, even though my kids aren't that far out of the house. It's a neat idea where parents looking for things to do with their children can check out a specialized events calendar, museum and attraction descriptions, etc. I think one of the best parts is the restaurant directory that tells you which places have kids nights and special deals. Having spent many years with two young boys debating with my wife where to eat -- and too often going to the same old places -- something like this definitely widens the horizons.

Likewise, the parks directory has excellent descriptions and photos -- including some parks I didn't know about, and I knew about a lot of them with the boys. What I like about all the directories on this site is that they are genuine. Too many Web stops these days are just cloning stuff off Wikipedia or other sites. But here the touches are real -- and really important to parents -- such as this from the description of the Irmo Town Park: A portapotty is located in the park area and there is a drinking water fountain.

The two things that might make this site better are mashup maps to go with those directories (which would make a parent's life just that much simpler) and a mobile version of the site (I'm in the car with the kids and we get the idea of doing something. If I could whip out my cell phone and get a version of this site, how cool would that be?)

If you look at many components of this site, they are the things many newspapers already have lying around their desks or can easily compile.

More power to Scottie Claiborne, who started Columbia4Kids. But it's the sort of niche information site news organizations are going to have to think about if they want to maintain the revenue streams needed to stay healthy. This cyber real estate is still relatively open in a lot of places. But it won't take too many moms wondering what to do with their kids to occupy it fairly quickly.

And note from Claiborne's description of her site, it qualifies in many respects as "citizen journalism," as it is maintained by a mix of part-time staff and volunteers. That's exactly the model a lot of newsrooms need to be looking at for these niche efforts.

Also note -- she seems to have a decent amount of advertising. Got your attention now ...?

(There also is a competing(?) hard copy book with the same idea, but not so competing that it won't advertise on the Web site.) Again, with all the special sections that papers put out, haven't they missed the boat here?)

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