Star Tribune: Back to creating the future

I've been tooling around on, the new youth-focused entertainment website from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. It's good to see the Star Tribune back in the groove, breaking new ground.

There's a lot to like in this effort -- wiki-like collaborative "guides" authored by the community, a solid foundation of basic listings, calendaring, free tagging and social networking. And it's refreshingly fast. My only immediate complaint is that it doesn't do enough to celebrate its "people" functionality -- some of the cool stuff is quite buried.

It's the brainchild of Matt Thompson, seen trying to look hip and urban on his user profile. If you don't know Matt, you may have heard him -- his disembodied voice is the soundtrack for the EPIC 2014 video we've all used to shake our print friends out of their snooze zone.

The Star Tribune was an early leader in breaking out of the "online newspaper" box. When I was editor in the 1990s, it won an EPpy award for Freetime, its entertainment service, beating some very tough competitors backed by giants such as Citysearch. But the truth is that Freetime never hit its target, which included matching you with a full night's entertainment plan through an interface we called "Darla the Date Wizard." We had lots of cool ideas, but the reality of building services in the 1990s was painful. Perl. Sybase. Contract programmers. Ewwww. is an obvious application of what the NewspaperNext project labeled the "master key building blocks" for building audiences by fulfilling jobs beyond news:

  1. Assemble relevant databases
  2. Unlock collective wisdom
  3. Provide platforms to facilitate collective conversation
  4. Nicely done. Who's next?