This website is an initiative of J-Lab.

Who's Blogging

Michelle Ferrier

MICHELLE FERRIER Dr. Michelle Ferrier is an associate professor in the iMedia graduate program at Elon University in North Carolina. She is interested in the intersection of community advocacy, education and journalism.

Visit Locally Grown

Project Blog: Womens Community News Franchise

This project sets out to create a complete infrastructure, to be franchised, for those who want to launch hyperlocal news sites. Services will include a Web platform, software development, market analysis, some content, and legal and marketing assistance. Such an infrastructure, says former editor Michelle Ferrier, will permit citizen journalists and community members to "focus on what they are most passionate about - building their community conversation through good local information and networking."

Sunny News for LocallyGrown

Thursday, November 10, 2011, a hyperlocal, hypertopical online community about local food founded by Elon University Professor Michelle Ferrier has expanded to Florida, opening its first franchise site in Tampa Bay.

Ferrier came to Elon from Florida, where she developed and managed a hyperlocal online community for a mid-size newspaper. From the lessons learned, she pitched the idea of a community news franchise to J-Lab and the New Media Women Entrepreneurs program. She was one of three grant awardees in 2009 to receive $10,000 in startup funds from the McCormick Foundation-funded program. launched in April 2010.

She will be working with Dana Villamagna, M.S.J., a Tampa Bay journalist and author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Eating for Kids."

"I'm really excited to work with Michelle on this project. I think local is the future not only for food, but also for media," Villamagna said. "The more we get to know each other and our communities, the more vibrant our societies become. I love food and I love journalism and I think it will be a great community building project." has also received recent press from The Patterson Foundation, the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Columbia Journalism Review on the unique hyperlocal, hypertopical cooperative model.

The Patterson Foundation New Media Journalism blog

Reynolds Journalism Institute Block by Block Community

Columbia Journalism Review News Frontier Database

Ferrier plans to expand the local food community concept to other cities nationwide and is in search of local foodies interested in bringing the project to their community. She is also seeking partnerships with hyperlocal news operators seeking evergreen food/eco content for their audiences.

"While we provide hyperlocal content to our readers, we also have an abundance of stories and recipes that help raise awareness about local food and sustainability," said Ferrier. "We'd like to syndicate some of this geography-neutral content to other hyperlocal news operations and partners."

For more information about, contact Michelle Ferrier at


   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 11/10 at 11:21 AM

Locally Grown News featured by The Patterson Foundation

Thursday, November 03, 2011

November 3, 2011

Locally Grown News publisher Michelle Ferrier was featured in a blog post by the New Media Journalism initiative, associated with The Patterson Foundation. Ferrier's "hyper-local," "hyper-topical" model for her news site fits into the New Media Journalism initiative's goal of promoting networks of engaged citizens.

"The idea of building networks to help build community is a key part of our work at The Patterson Foundation. We see the opportunities for what is learned in one network to inform others, a process that both helps build better practices and lets us all learn from what doesn’t work," the post reads.

Ferrier focuses on her topic of local foods and healthy lifestyles, detailing how her market is niche, yet successful.

Read the full blog post here.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 11/03 at 01:10 PM Tweaking Interface, Sending First Email Newsletter

Monday, June 21, 2010

I officially launched last week after a month in soft launch where I invited close friends and collaborators to take a look at the site. I’ve gotten great feedback regarding the design and I love how the community members are front and center on the site.

Last week, my developer and I tweaked the site to add the popup bubbles on the community members. Now when you mouse over who’s online or who’s new, you get their mini bio and how long they’ve been a member. My goal is to allow users to “wave” at one another and trade “gifts” using the bubbles, but that’s on a long list of developments we’re still working through on the site.

I sent my first email newsletter today, using Constant Contact’s free trial. While the interface seemed a bit clunky for a first-time user, I was pleased that CC actually called me when I initiated my account to see if I had any questions or concerns. Then they followed up this morning to make sure I had been able to send my email properly. Now THAT’S customer service! Thanks Erik!

So I’ve been cranking out new articles on the site, using my visits to farmers markets to generate two or three articles from each visit. Plus, I’ve been distributing postcards about the site to vendors in their booths, directing them to the site. So when I write an article about a vendor, I send them a link to the article or photo package and they put the links on their site.

The local food movement conversation has been a great choice for the content on the site. When I look around the farmers markets, I see such a diversity of humanity. I know this is the place to start the conversation about building our local economy, and the way to a community’s heart is through its stomach.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 06/21 at 10:24 AM

Soft Launch Updates

Friday, May 28, 2010

I’ve been knee deep in launching the platform and doing promotion. We’re still in the *soft launch* mode, but fleshing out content now that the semester has ended. A few updates…

  • I’ll be promoting LocallyGrown News at the Detroit Journalism That Matters event next week in our Innovations Expo. Hoping for a few recruits.
  • The week after, my platform developer will be highlighting the site in his talk on hyperlocal communities at the Editor and Publisher Interactive Media conference. He will also be distributing literature at his booth at the expo.
  • We have interest in Florida (back in Daytona Beach) and in Washington, DC to launch one of the franchises. We’re still in the demonstration phase, so I’m not eager to sell someone a bill of goods when I haven’t demonstrated the viability of the concept. But it is getting traction.
  • In Winston-Salem, we’re working with the regional market managers who will be using the site as their main promotion site.
  • LocallyGrown News got a $1,000 grant from the Center for Design Innovation in Winston-Salem as part of their Design, Arts, Technology Symposium that focuses on food and foodways this year. LocallyGrown News is one of three projects that will be featured at the conference and we will be providing editorial coverage.

As for the mobile market app, we’re finishing up wireframes and searching for additional development funds. I keep plugging the fundraising locally to foundations in our region. We’re getting some interest from local farm markets looking for solutions to this problem. But we may be attacking state/federal grants rather than local ones… with a much longer time frame for response.

So that’s what’s growing in my neck of the woods!

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 05/28 at 10:08 AM

What is LocallyGrown News?

Monday, April 19, 2010 is an online community and mobile application designed to foster conversations around the locavore movement. A locavore is someone who eats locally grown produce within 50 miles of their geographic location. uses the eating locally movement to generate conversation around sustainable, healthy lifestyles.


   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 04/19 at 11:10 AM

Soft launch mode: Talk it up, sign folks up

Monday, April 19, 2010

I’m going into soft launch mode with LocallyGrown News this month. By rolling out the beta version of the hyperlocal online community through private invites to selected users, I can get feedback on any design, content, architecture or function elements of the site…and still have time for adjustments!

My goal is to use local Earth Day events to distribute information on the project to key community people and get them interested. I’ve already started conversations with city officials, photographers, content providers and others generating some buzz about the site.


   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 04/19 at 11:00 AM

Deep into development on site/mobile app

Friday, March 19, 2010

I’m deep into development of LocallyGrownNews after a quarter of brass tacks business development and planning. With partnership agreements in place with an online community platform and one in progress for a mobile application developer (no, they are not the same), I’ve been trading logo designs, wireframes and ideas for the mobile app with my virtual team(s).

February has also been a month of fundraising. While I’m licensing the online community platform, the mobile app is a completely new product to help bring an additional revenue stream to the business model. Development time = money. So I’ve written two additional grants - one with a local foundation call for projects and another with a national foundation source. I’ve also been working with the mobile app team to identify community grant sources as well as angel and venture capital funds to develop version 1 and version 2.

Versions 1 and 2? What happened to beta? I’ll be beta testing the online community in the second quarter of 2010, but I’m building out a business model with some future development in place. In order to compete in any way with the free (or virtually free) platforms like WordPress, I recognized that we have to bring some value-added to the table. That includes planning for new technologies, fresh content and always looking for partnerships to leverage smart people and products.

I’ve also been immersing myself in the markets where I’ll be beta testing the concept. I decided to launch the effort closer to home where I can develop the contacts and content myself (the free labor helps with the budget!). I’m also cultivating some interested contacts in other locales who are just as interested in food and hyperlocal communities.

Spring is here and I’m eager to break out of this winter hibernation. With our anticipated launch on the horizon, I’m preparing simple promotional materials for a soft launch, storing up evergreen content and continuing to share the philosophy of connecting communities through food.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 03/19 at 11:13 AM

Project Report

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Former editor Dr. Michelle Ferrier, one of three winners in the New Media Women Entrepreneurs awards,  has been working to develop a complete infrastructure, to be franchised, for those individuals or groups want to launch hyper-local news sites.  Ferrier is an associate professor at Elon University in North Carolina and teaches in the iMedia graduate program.

She reports that she’s had a busy time in the projects first three months.

Ferrier established a business structure as a limited liability partnership called Creative Technologists, LLC based in Greensboro, North Carolina and interviewed and/or visited six potential technology partners for the development of the content management system for the community sites.

Ferrier then researched and received quotes on several different companion print products. As part of the learning process, she made contact with competing companies and products being offered in the hyper-local space to see what they were offering. And then she created nondisclosure and teaming agreements with Creative Circle Advertising Solutions of Providence, Rhode Island.

These negotiations included a licensing agreement for use of their CommunityQ content management system and an exclusive nationwide right to sell the platform to potential hyper-local news operators.

Then she created nondisclosure and teaming agreements with Inner Eye Studios of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Inner Eye Studios will be Ferrier’s technology partner in the development of the mobile application and other ancillary technologies to the content management system platform.

She established a project blog at that details the project development along with informational content of use to hyperlocal developers. She wrote a series of blogs on the pros/cons of content management systems resulting in significant buzz and viewership that extended to the Reynolds Journalism Institute Collaboratory site and Journalism That Matters Collaboratory, two potential audiences for the franchise project content and services.

Finally, she found a physical location for the business in the Wagon Works Digital Media Incubator, developed by Inner Eye Studios in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“The principals of the incubator will help establish the technological supports for the franchise project and provide marketing and business support for the development of the franchise business,” said Ferrier. “They will also assist in the development of a pitch package for local venture capital firms.

“By December 30, 2009, I intend to begin the design and development of the content management system front-end and back-end systems. In addition, a design for the mobile application system will be developed in conjunction with the above partners.”

For all the good things that have happened, Ferrier says that she has experienced a significant setback. Foreclosures, as well as business closures, in the West Volusia, Florida area have had a direct effect on the advertising and readership of a potential hyper-local publication that Ferrier had planned to help launch in the area. Due to the economic downturn, Ferrier and the content partner that she works with in the area both felt that the problems with starting a new enterprise in the area would serious compromise its chances of being successful.

“Due to this loss, I have been assessing other locations for the viability of the hyper-local concept,” says Ferrier. “I’m going to use an online contest to solicit interested hyper-local operators, and to develop a prospect list for potential clients. The contest will held in January 2010, with the winner of will begin development of their local site by March 2010.”

Ferrier plans to attend the Journalism That Matters regional event in Seattle, Washington on January 7-10, 2010. She’ll distribute promotional materials for the contest and the Women’s Community News Franchise effort. And she plans to attend the Journalism That Matters conference in Detroit June 4-7, 2010, where she will be one of the principal organizers.

“This ‘mashup’  conference is designed to stimulate and incubate innovative journalism ventures,” says Ferrier.” I intend to cultivate additional contacts for content, technology and distribution.”

Ferrier also plans to continue to explore a variety of funding sources such as foundation, venture and personal, to sustain the franchise development in subsequent years.  The development of a venture capital package is on the drawing board.

The next three months will see more work to build the hyper-local “toolbox,” including the design and development of the content management system/mobile application and contest/marketing materials for the franchise idea. Ferrier will also launch a proof of concept site and select a partner for the site.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 01/14 at 02:11 PM

Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW

Sunday, January 10, 2010

After several days at the Journalism that Matters -Pacific Northwest gathering, we’ve been asked to reflect on what ah-ha moments, actions and emotions we’ve developed during our time. One of the most intriguing ideas to come out of the JTM session I hosted on Locally Grown News was the idea of slow news.

The first ah-ha moment for me came when I looked at what was happening nationally and the movement toward producing fewer papers—going from a daily metro newspaper to perhaps three or four times a week publication. While this has reduced expenditures and is often accompanied by layoffs, I began to think that the change signaled a difference in how news was produced. Even with fewer employees, do the news staffs feel that they can produce more thoughtful, context-filled, richly sourced stories with the additional time they now have?

This thought carried into the Locally Grown News session where we examined using the locavore movement—eating locally—as an opening for conversations and sharing of news in a community. The idea is to use the analogy of the farmer’s market, rather than the town square, as the metaphor for doing news differently in a hyperlocal space.

image Our group found the food metaphor a rich way to explore not only how hyperlocals might use this content niche as a focal point, but began to examine the food cycle itself and how it maps to the roles, practices, behaviors, rituals that define a different way of doing journalism. What rich, fertile ground (oh, the puns!) that helped to grow our vision of a new kind of news process.

Slow news is the deliberate, thoughtful, context-filled, nurturing journalistic enterprise. It is news as food, news and information that feeds a community. My initial thoughts generated multiple questions that we could ask ourselves as journalists and media producers:

  1. Who is fed by this information? Who is starved?
  2. How does this information nurture the community?
  3. Where did the seeds of this idea come from?
  4. Who contributed to the preparation of this story?
  5. Where else/how else/in what other forms might this story be produced?

Our collective passion for what we do as journalists and foodies led us to produce a diagram that maps our roles as media in the food cycle.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 01/10 at 09:44 AM

New Year, New Name, Fresh Start for Hyperlocal Incubator

Thursday, January 07, 2010

So here I am, back after a brief hiatus, taking Locally Grown News on the road. I’m roadtesting the concept of a “sustainable journalism incubator” at the Journalism That Matters “Reimagining News & Community in the Pacific Northwest in Seattle on January 7-10.

The concept of an incubator morphed from the franchise idea. Why? The goal is to create a collaborative environment, regardless of name. However, the term franchise has lots of legal connotations that were not intended in the original project concept. So the Women’s Community News Franchise has morphed into the rich environment that an incubator can create.

My goal is still the same: Create locally grown owner/operators of hyperlocal online communities. Give them the training and the tools to get started. Provide them with ongoing coaching to be sustainable. Create a community of operators that help each other by sharing their unique talents. Use technology to connect people and affirm the value of place and neighborliness.

A virtual/physical incubator might best service the hyperlocal niche with services, support, planning, development and content. I’m here to recruit beta testers for the Locally Grown News concept and the Pacific Northwest is a great region full of entrepreneurial spirit and folks committed to quality journalism.

In December, I completed several critical tasks:

  1. Legally formed an LLC.
  2. Negotiated contracts with software developers for both the content management system and for mobile-application development.
  3. Found a domain name that reflected our local flavor (can’t resist the metaphors) and the content area that we’ll focus on (more on that later).

So I’ve laid the groundwork and am ready to go. I’ll be sharing ideas and experiments from the Journalism that Matters conference and hopefully bring back some beta testers as well!

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 01/07 at 09:42 AM