How to Create a Local Newswire for your Blog
I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I don’t run hyperlocal news blogs. Yes, we post news, but it’s not “hard news” and we purposely stay away from potentially polarizing topics like politics. That’s because the main purpose of the blogs isn’t to be a news source, but to indirectly increase my wife’s visibility as a local real estate agent. We post about community events, school-related news, and stuff like that, while skipping accidents, crime, politics, and so forth.
But I also recognize that people reading our blogs might want some more local news, so just this past week we added what I’ve called a “local newswire” to each of our four local blogs. Here’s a screenshot from the newswire on our Richland real estate blog:
This might be a valuable page for any hyperlocal blogger, whether you run a news blog or not. The main requirement is that you’re using WordPress. (If someone wants to write similar instructions for another blog platform, let me know and I’ll gladly link to it or let you post it here as a guest article.) If you’re using WordPress, here’s how to do it.
How to Create a Hyperlocal Newswire
1. Download, install, and activate the Lifestream plugin. This plugin lets you aggregate an unlimited number of RSS feeds into a single page on your blog. (Or into a post, I suppose.) Lifestream has its own requirements (PHP 5, MySQL 5+, etc.), so check your hosting setup to make sure it’ll work.
2. Make a list of local RSS feeds that you want to pull into your newswire. Local newspaper, local TV, you name it. Just grab the URLs of each RSS feed and save it in a text file.
3. Add each RSS feed URL into the Lifestream admin/settings page. As you can see from the screenshot below, Lifestream pre-supports a few dozen types of feeds — Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and many more. I used a few of those, but mostly used the “Generic” RSS feed.
When you click on the “Generic” button there, it leads you to a short and simple form where you supply the feed URL. If you want, you can also give it a label that will show up on your public newswire page — like “WKRP News” or something like that.
If you want to have little customized icons like we do (see the Google and Yahoo icons in the first screenshot above), then you’ll need to create those (16 x 16 each) and indicate the URL for each icon when you add the feed. Or you can skip this and have the generic orange RSS feed icon show up each time. Your call.
4. Repeat step 3 for each feed you want to include in your newswire.
5. Create the newswire page. Just create the new page, give it a name and URL in your WordPress admin, and make sure to put
as the page content. That’s all you need. Hit Publish and you’ve got a local newswire. Congrats! But wait, one more thing to share….
How to Handle Non-Specific RSS Feeds
If we had one blog for our entire region, the above is all I would’ve needed to do. But we have four blogs, one for each of the main cities in this area. And the local media covers all four cities — in other words, the local paper’s RSS feed includes news about all four cities, when we only want news from one city appearing on each blog.
How do you pull out news for a single city from an RSS feed that covers many cities?
Try Yahoo Pipes. Now listen, I’m one of the least technologically smart people I know. Programming makes my eyes glaze over and puts me to sleep. So if I can figure out how to use Yahoo Pipes, you can, too.
You’ll need a Yahoo account and all that stuff. Login to Yahoo, go to the Pipes URL above, and click the button to create a new pipe. Then here’s what I did:
1. Under the SOURCES tab on the left, click “Fetch Feed.” This adds a module to your pipe that lets you add any number of RSS feeds. Cut and paste the URLs of all the generic feeds into this module.
2. Under the OPERATORS tab on the left, click “Filter.” This adds a module that you can use to filter the content of your pipe. In my case, I’m taking the RSS feeds of all the local TV stations and the local newspaper and I’m going to filter them to include only stories that say “Richland” in the headline, and ignore stories that say “West Richland,” a separate town. (There are additional filtering options, but I’m just using this for now.)
3. Once you have both modules setup the way you want, make the pipe. Use the fun pipe-y interface to connect “Fetch Feed” to “Filter” and then connect “Filter” to “Pipe Output.” When you’re done, it should look something like this:
At this point, click the “Pipe Output” module to test what you’ve done. Some results should show up at the bottom of the screen, telling you that you’ve created your first Yahoo Pipe.
4. Wrap it up and get out of there. Save your pipe and give it a name if you haven’t already. Click the “Back to My Pipes” link, and then on that next page, click the name of your pipe — this will take you to the page that has the RSS feed of the pipe you just made.
5. Grab the pipe’s RSS feed URL and add it to Lifestream. Once you have the RSS feed URL, do the same thing you did in step 3 above when adding feeds to Lifestream.
Step 6 – pat yourself on the back for figuring out how to use Yahoo Pipes!
See It In Action!
If you’d like to see the four newswires we’ve just published, here are the links:
These are only a couple days old, so you’ll see that there’s still some cleanup work to do in places — fonts, font sizes, etc. And since they’re so new, I have no stats to share about how many times the pages get visited or anything like that.
I think there’s value in this kind of content no matter what kind of hyperlocal blog you have. For Cari and me, it adds a lot of news content to our blog — most of which we wouldn’t write about ourselves. But even if you do have a news blog, I think there’s value in aggregating other local news content so that your readers have a one-stop source for what’s going on locally.
As I mentioned, if there’s a way to do something similar on non-WordPress blogs, leave a comment or send me an email so I can link to your “how to” or invite to write one as a guest post. If you already have a newswire-type page on your blog, or have questions about what I’ve described above, the comments are open.