Fwix, a website for local news, aims to be a "real-time local newswire" for your hometown. Offering a combination of traditional content pulled from newspapers and blogs along with items submitted by citizen journalists, the site reads more like a location-based lifestream than a typical news site. Key to the site's success will be the inclusion of user-generated content coming in from iPhone submissions. The company plans to launch an updated version of their Fwix iPhone application this week which will allow anyone to file news stories, photos, and videos from anywhere, all geo-tagged thanks to the iPhone's GPS location data.
The original incarnation of Fwix, launched almost exactly a year ago, focused more on aggregating content from sites like Craigslist and Yelp instead of on local news. Today, the San Francisco-based venture offers up local news streams for nearly 85 cities in the U.S. and has plans to expand internationally later this year.
How it Works
When you first visit Fwix, the site auto-detects your location by looking at your IP address. If you're in one of the supported cities, you'll immediately be shown the local homepage for that area. The presentation of the headlines is simple, displaying only headlines and brief one-sentence summaries - perfect for this modern day-and-age where people don't read entire articles as much as they scan the headlines.
Current news items take up the main part of the page while active (aka "popular") stories, weather, and site activity panels fill the sidebar. Another interesting feature is the "break" button which appears under each story. By clicking this, you have the opportunity to "break" the story by posting it to Twitter or Facebook. That's a bit of twist on what people usually mean when they say a news story was "broken by Twitter" - i.e., Twitter was the first place it appeared. In this case, though, you're just tweeting something that someone already reported. However, in the case of user-generated submissions, you still may be the first to bring the news to the microblogging network.
The iPhone App
According to Fwix's 22-year-old founder and former Facebook employee, Darian Shirazi, the company's new iPhone application will make its appearance in the iTunes App Store sometime this week. With the free app, which will let you use your Facebook or Twitter account for sign in purposes, you'll be able to submit stories, and take pictures and videos (the latter if you use the newer iPhone 3GS which includes video-recording functionality). Your items will then appear on the Fwix web site. You can also use the app to read the news stories from your city.
Although there are plenty of iPhone applications for local news (just do an iTunes search), none really offer what Fwix does. Even CNN's popular iReport only takes emailed-in submissions for when you're mobile, there's no dedicated application. The closest iPhone app competitor is probably outside.in's Radar (iTunes link), a complement to the company's own local news service. Radar pulls in relevant news, blog posts, and Twitter updates based on your current location. However, neither it nor any of the others allow you to use their app to actually do reporting like this. And once you've submitted your eye-witness report, the news story will make it to the Fwix homepage almost instantly.
With all the talk of the failing newspaper industry and declining revenues, Fwix has come up with an innovative new concept for gathering news. This is precisely the sort of iPhone application your hometown local paper should have thought of first. Unfortunately, they didn't - which is probably one of the many reasons they're struggling today. Good thing Fwix is open to syndication. Says Shirazi, the company has some deals "in the pipeline" to offer Fwix content to local media outlets but isn't announcing anything just yet.
The Fwix website itself gets 400,000 unique visitors per month but their content network receives nearly 8 million, reports Shirazi. (Quantcast reports 7.3 million people globally). If citizen journalists adopt the new app when it arrives, those numbers may soon increase.