Have you seen Photogamer?
There's a lot to like about this site/concept, and half of its beauty is its simplicity. It's essentially a blog and a Flickr group, melded into a fairly engaging social media experiment. It's highly addictive, both as a viewer and as an amateur photographer.
The concept is simple: Once a day, a photo subject is proposed via the blog. Then, those who are playing along upload their submission to their own photo account, and add the photo to the Photogamer group.
It's not a contest. It's intended simply as a medium through which amateur photographers can showcase themselves, and see how their peers tackled the same subject.
Not a photographer? Well, we already know our users love to peruse photo galleries. What better way to further engage that interest by providing them with more community photos without severely tapping your resources. Put the content expansion in the hands of your audience.
In doing the latter, you're tapping into the wide swath of users who already play in the digital photo space -- using everything from fancy, expensive SLRs to the cheapest camera phones and disposable digital point-and-shoots.
Sure, we've been soliciting user-generated photos online for years. We've even published some in the paper (we should do this more, too, by the way). Our normal m.o., though, is to ramp up the effort when there is breaking news. We need a more continuous flow, especially to foster more aggressive audience growth in those wide gaps between the really big stories.
I've been participating in Photogamer. You can follow my very amateur progress on my Flickr account (I also posted about the experience here and here on my personal blog). Come join me, and spend the rest of January on Photogamer. Then leverage the experience to create a local version for February and beyond.
You could even take Photogamer a step further and turn it into a mobile-phone-photo-based scavenger hunt for a younger audience set, for example. The possibilities are fairly limitless.
I'm sure C.C. Chapman won't mind if I transmit one of his concept's here (helping you speak outside the fishbowl in 2008, C.C.!): The goal, from an editor's perspective, should be to play on the new media playground, and gain insight and experience from the endeavor. By encouraging you to participate, I am hoping you, as my audience, will not only learn from the experience, but also have fun doing it. After all, the best way to learn anything is by doing -- and doing it continuously enough until it becomes second nature.
Then pay it all forward by having fun with your audience.