The WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism this week launched a project that could help strengthen rural communities in West Virginia and beyond. Seeking to make West Virginia a leader in mobile marketing and publishing, the Mobile Main Street project is an initiative to engage small-community organizations, businesses and media in mobile app development and marketing to help fuel economic development in local communities.

Since its inception, Mobile Main Street has grown to include five pilot partners: Tucker and McDowell counties; The Hampshire Review in Romney, W.Va.; The Spirit of Jefferson in Shepherdstown, W.Va.; and Two-Lane Livin' Magazine in Stumptown, W.Va.

Designed to be a community publishing experience, Mobile Main Street harnesses local Twitter, Facebook and other social media activity to help curate a community voice with hyper-local content relevant to a community. The project began as an extension of the School's West Virginia Uncovered project to help rural newspapers throughout the state transition to the digital age through content production, training and technology support.

The project's leader, WVU Assistant Professor Dana Coester, says the app can help strengthen traditional media like Two-Lane Livin' Magazine by providing new sources of revenue to supplement traditional advertising. "Through this model, the media organization can begin to reclaim its role as the vehicle for commerce and, in a sense, the hub of rural economic development," said Coester. "Local businesses and community organizations can provide specialized content to mobile users - those perhaps not reached by traditional advertising alone. And the individual members are more engaged in the wider conversation about their communities."

In line with the project's sense of community development, Two-Lane Livin' will use the mobile app to create a resource for educational information on rural life in general and also to provide up-to-date information relating to the Central West Virginia communities the magazine serves.

"Our mobile app will include the sustainable living articles included in our magazine, about gardening, hunting, traveling, health, etc. but it will also include much, much more than that," said Lisa Minney, the magazine's publisher. "We'll be gathering and sharing information released by social media outlets and posts for organizations, governments, associations, businesses and people throughout the 17 counties we serve."

The mobile app will aggregate posts from regional Convention and Visitor Bureaus, Offices of Emergency Services, news outlets, non-profit organizations and businesses throughout Central West Virginia. Mobile app users will have access to the most up-to-date information released by river gauge and rain gauge readings, local government offices, regional farmer's markets, selected bloggers in the region and more.

All non-profit organizations within the magazine's distribution region are invited to be included, and can be provided they have a social media output that creates an RSS feed, like a facebook account, twitter account or a blog. Blog and media posts that create an RSS feed are basically creating a coded supply of information that is easily reused and integrated with other information. "The mobile app can collect RSS feeds from community groups across all social media into one place," said Minney. "Then, users can easily find the most comprehensive, up-to-date information from their community - be it a local sale or fundraiser, a music performance, a list of what's at the farmer's market, or an emergency announcement."

The magazine's edition of the mobile app, "Two-Lane Mobile", is scheduled to be released by mid November. Already, more than 40 community groups and organizations have come on board to have their social media posts included in the mobile application. The app will also include blog posts from the magazine's columnists, announcements from the magazine publishers, and marketing posts from the magazine's advertising clients.

To have your business, organization or association's social media posts included in the mobile application, call 304-354-9132 or e-mail   info@twolanelivin.com

For more information on Two-Lane Livin' Magazine, visit   twolanelivin.com

For more information about the Mobile Main Street project, visit   mymobilemainstreet.com

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