The founder of eBay is launching a new online site where people can read and discuss local news. The catch? It'll cost you a monthly subscription, and it's only available in Hawaii for now.
Pierre Omidyar, who started eBay in 1995 and now lives in Honolulu, is hoping his fellow Hawaiian neighbors will pay $19.95 a month to read and comment on local and community news. Launching on Wednesday but officially opening for business May 4, Civil Beat is billing itself as a virtual civic square where reporters will write about issues relevant to Hawaii, converse with readers, and host discussion forums.
"What does it mean to build a civic square?" asked Omidyar in his initial column. "For us, it's about building a place where we can all learn about and better understand our home, the challenges we face, and debate and discover ideas and strategies for moving forward."
So far, the site is breaking down its topics into a few key areas, including Honolulu, Hawaii, education, land, and money, where interested readers will find links to current and past stories as well as background on the different issues. Of course, Omidyar and editor John Temple are also looking for comments, feedback, and lively discussions from the readers.
"We want to hear your suggestions and questions," wrote Temple in his introductory column. "Our reporter-hosts will be sharing their experiences and insights with you over the coming weeks, but they'll be looking for you to share your thoughts and expertise, too. Not just with us, but with our other original members."
But by encouraging their readers to participate, Omidyar and Temple are putting a heavy emphasis on the word "civil." In requiring readers to pay a subscription and register, the two men hope to avoid the type of hateful, abusive, and flaming comments that sometimes mar other news and community sites. Any reader who posts will be identified by name, and no anonymous comments will be accepted.
If the site takes off, Omidyar said he would consider expanding it to other regions. But his goal now is to make Civil Beat work in his home base of Hawaii.