Breaking new ground together - that is the basic idea behind molo.news. Based on empirical research findings and the general description of problems, users and providers of local and regional information were involved in the development of the relational information platform for urban publics, taking the Bremen region as an example, with their wishes for a local communication environment that promotes the public.
The platform molo.news reaches its audience via a smartphone app in which content from different professional and non-professional providers relevant to the local public flows together in a uniform news feed. For this, molo.news has already been rated by experts as "best practice" and "practical innovation development" for urban publics.
The validation project takes up the basic research on urban public sphere and the "proof of concept" of the experimental platform molo.news (http://molo.news), which was initially developed for the city of Bremen and its surroundings. It validates its nationwide scalability on the basis of one large, medium and small city each in western Germany (Bremen, Delmenhorst and Bremervörde) and eastern Germany (Leipzig, Markkleeberg and Großpösna).
molo.news was developed in "co-creation", which means that many people from Bremen and the surrounding area contributed to the development of molo.news. In addition to potential users, these were journalists and representatives of local collectives, such as sports clubs, social movements and cultural institutions. molo.news not only wants to present the most important news from regional media, but also to help smaller collectives, such as local associations, social movements, citizens' initiatives and many other groups, to gain more visibility. In this way, molo.news provides citizens with a better overview of the diverse opportunities for social participation in the area and contributes to a better common urban public sphere.
On this basis, the validation project aims to establish a platform for urban public sphere that is available throughout Germany. As a social innovation, molo.news is to address in the future in various regions especially those people who are no longer or insufficiently reached by classic local journalistic offerings (e.g. young people or people with few financial resources). Through its relationality which means bringing together different actors relevant to the urban public, it should contribute to social cohesion in the city through its diversity of opinions and perspectives.
In view of the economic crisis of local journalism in many (small and medium-sized) cities, the platform should also offer the possibility of monetizing the work of freelance journalists. It strengthens established media offerings by bringing new circles of users to them. This is done by linking to their offerings within the framework of the relational approach and with the participation of as many different providers as possible. Current offerings on the market are either general news aggregators (e.g., Apple News, Google News) - without a specific focus on a community and without revenue opportunities for journalists - or event and social media platforms without a specific local focus on urban publics.
As our research shows, the relationality desired by users is not established on such platforms. The need for a relational platform for urban public spheres is demonstrated - especially during the Corona pandemic - by the difficulty in many German cities to establish a discourse across different relevant groups of actors. The realization of such a relational platform has a high risk in the sense that
- the construction of a "social architecture" for such a platform has yet to be tested in different urban contexts, and
- the "software architecture" has yet to be validated with regard to more extensive automation, further development of the interface and integration of monetization possibilities for freelance journalists.
It cannot be assumed that actors already active in the urban public sphere will be able to do this, because i) local media have no ostensible interest in a public welfare-oriented development task that abstracts from their own "brand". They remain bound to their economic interests, because ii) freelance local journalists, non-profit journalism, associations and other collectives do not have the resources to do this, and because iii) established public service providers or state institutions may participate in such a platform but cannot offer it for legal reasons.