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Monthly Archives: July 2008

Today’s news about local online advertising

Front Porch Forum offers advertising space to local businesses at bargain prices right now as we’re working to develop as a new kind of service. With 10,000 Chittenden County households subscribing already, including one-third of our pilot city, Burlington, we have a sizable audience available for local businesses. Several are reporting strong responses to their FPF ads.

So we’re interested in news such as the items below, such as the following from Peter Krasilovsky

The 32 company strong Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, which covers 41 percent of Sunday newspaper circulation, has 700-900 reps selling Yahoo inventory, with a couple of the newspapers selling over $1 million in annual inventory…

And Michael Learmonth at Silicon Alley Insider reports

It’s been a dismal year for ad-supported businesses, but not everyone is getting hurt. A look through recent public company statements on their ad businesses shows a trend: those worst off are (a) exposed primarily to the U.S. ad market, and (b) have the most print and TV in their portfolios…

Who’s not getting hurt? Those heavily weighted in growing, international regions. And industries benefiting from the shift of dollars away from traditional media — such as digital, search, marketing services, and PR. In other words, the global ad agencies — which have strained their balance sheets making acquisitions over the past several years. They’ve had a decidedly upbeat quarter, or at least what passes for an upbeat quarter in 2008.

And Borrell Associates released a new report. From the executive summary…

Over the next five years, we are predicting that 39 percent of the ad spending on print yellow pages revenues will vanish as small businesses shift marketing budgets online. After 12 years as an advertising medium, the Internet has reached small-business owners with viable marketing opportunities in the form of keyword advertising, interactive directories and low-priced online video commercials.

Until now, the key beneficiaries of this shift have been the search engines. But legacy media companies — yellow pages publishers included – have unleashed a newly trained army of local sales people to hunt down this migrating money. Directory publishers have cross-trained nearly all their print reps to sell interactive media, while newspaper publishers have launched their own interactive directories and have deployed cross-trained sales troops to sell them. All told, online products are being peddled by 34,100 trained local sales reps — more sales people than any other local medium. With all those reps hawking banners, paid search, interactive directory listings and online video, it is no wonder that local online advertising is increasing at a rate of 61 percent this year, to $14.1 billion.

Yellow pages publishers have spent the past three years transforming their massive on-the-ground sales forces into marketing consultants who can meet their customers’ demands both in print and online. Their combined print/online packages are simple, low-priced, one-stop solutions to small-business advertising needs. The proof of the industry’s rapid transformation is in the numbers: Of all local media companies, yellow pages publishers have been the most successful in moving toward digital sales, averaging about 14 percent of their gross revenues from online sales this year. By contrast, the online contribution for most local newspaper, radio, cable and TV competitors is less than 5 percent of gross revenues.

The main battle for the small business ad spending is between the pure-plays, on the one hand, and the two groups with the largest local sales forces: newspapers and directory publishers. Both have feverishly cross-trained their sales forces in the past three years and added “online only” reps to pursue the hottest-selling advertising product in local markets: interactive advertising, including the fastest-growing format of all, online video commercials.

Mark Potts adds

The Journal story lists several reasons for the newspapers’ local online advertising problems, unfortunately well-known to anybody who’s been around newspaper online ad sales operations:

  • It’s hard to get sales reps interested in selling less-lucrative local online ads.
  • Small local advertisers generally don’t buy banner ads favored by larger national advertisers (and still the standard ad on most newspaper Web sites).
  • Strategies of bundling print and online advertising may cause more cannibalization than added sales.
  • Local online ad growth is coming from small- and medium-sized business–which traditionally haven’t been significant advertising customers of most good-sized dailies.

That last point is particularly interesting. In print and online, most papers, by covering a broad metropolitan area, are more attractive to larger local advertisers like car dealers and banks. Smaller advertisers–the pizza parlors, nail salons, mom-and-pop stores–don’t want the broad geographic reach that papers offer, and can’t afford the high rates. And they’re harder to sell to (and the commissions aren’t as large).

So newspaper sales reps traditionally haven’t called on those smaller advertisers. But there are lots of them, and other media are moving in–community papers, local Web sites and blogs, even Google, Yahoo and specialty sites like Yelp. That’s what’s crowding the newspapers out of their own markets, online.


More on Old North End quality of life

The depth of community running through Burlington’s Old North End is bubbling to the surface more and more these days. As discussed previously, a number of residents used Front Porch Forum to spark a discussion about drug dealing, public safety and overall quality of life issues. Some natural community organizers among them, channeled the energy evident on Front Porch Forum and organized a community meeting… held last night.

Here’s a report posted to FPF by State Rep.

Tonight’s forum was well attended and I must admit the discussion left me a bit humbled. While I get frustrated with late night walk-by noise and we’ve been talking about fireworks waking us up late at night all too many in the Old North End live with drug deals, theft and more on a daily basis.

The message from [Police] Chief Schirling was loud and clear: they need our help. Even if you know the police could not make it to your street in time to stop the disturbance they are constantly building cases and monitoring our neighborhoods to figure out where their attention is most needed.

Burlington Police at 658-2700. You might also find their Citizen’s Guide to Reporting Crime helpful.

And John Briggs reported for the Burlington Free Press too…

Crime numbers are down, yet it doesn’t feel that way for many residents in Burlington’s Old North End this summer.

Worries about the quality of life in the neighborhood are nothing new, but the approach to a variety of issues at a well-attended community meeting Tuesday, from drug sales to noise, was more “What can we do?” rather than “How can we get them?” as it was just a few years ago.

That’s great… so good to hear that the tone was mostly positive and working toward solutions. This was our goal when we took the unusual steps of suspending the topic for a couple weeks on one of the FPF Old North End neighborhood forums… it had wandered away from being civil and constructive. Encouraging results.

We’re starting to see something similar happen in Winooski now through Front Porch Forum… civil and constructive conversation among neighbors (and local public officials).

UPDATE: The Free Press published my letter to the editor today… much appreciated…

Old North Enders engaged for solutions

We were thrilled to see that local residents were focused more on “What can we do?” rather than “How can we get them?” at the recent community meeting about crime (“Old North End worried about quality of life,” July 30).

We’re humbled that thousands of neighbors have used FrontPorchForum.com to engage in civil and constructive conversation online about these persistent challenges. And we’re also glad that so many people heeded the call to move the conversation offline and engage in face-to-face dialogue at community meetings.

On the whole, we see more people getting to know their neighbors and engaging in solving local problems — a hopeful sign for the Old North End and Burlington.

MICHAEL WOOD-LEWIS
Burlington
The writer is the co-founder of FrontPorchForum.com.


Neighbors celebrate their FPF neighborhood forum

Thanks to Greg for his kind words posted today on his own FPF neighborhood forum…

I didn’t want last week’s 400th issue of South Union Neighborhood Forum go unrecognized, so Congratulations, the Wood-Lewis’, on the quadracentenary of our Front Porch Forum! We’re so lucky to have you and this valuable community resource, and keep up the great work!!

Just goes to show, the best things in life are free.

(That said, be sure to use whatever influence and contacts you have to find Sponsors for this innovative, interactive newsletter. That would include real estate agents, too!)


Yahoo Mail’s overly enthusiastic bulk mail filter

Update: We’ve had a few reports of this same problem happening for Gmail users.  So… if you’re not receiving your FPF email, regardless of your email host (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.), please follow the steps below.

Original posting: Yahoo Mail‘s spam filter technology has a tough assignment… no doubt. But recently it started blocking many Front Porch Forum e-newsletters from our subscribers’ inboxes. Not only did these good folks sign up to receive their neighborhood newsletter, but they write it too. You can imagine how upset some people are becoming. Not much help forthcoming from the Yahoo monolith, so we’re sharing the message below with all FPF-subscribing Yahoo Mail users.

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For Yahoo Mail using Front Porch Forum Subscribers: Front Porch Forum (FPF) has learned that Yahoo Mail’s spam filter mistakenly thinks that some FPF neighborhood e-newsletters are spam. So, it’s likely that your Yahoo Mail inbox is not receiving your FPF neighborhood forum. PLEASE TAKE STEP 1 below and consider taking the other steps (DETAILS below):

  1. Teach your Yahoo Mail spam filter to accept Front Porch Forum!
  2. Provide FPF with a non-Yahoo email address.
  3. Stick with Yahoo Mail, but use email client software instead of Yahoo Mail’s website.
  4. Read your FPF neighborhood news on our website, instead of via email.

We regret this inconvenience. TAKING STEP 1 will help you and hundreds of other folks who have been cut off from their neighborhood news. Thank you!

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DETAILS for the steps above:

1. TEACH YOUR YAHOO MAIL SPAM FILTER to accept incoming email from Front Porch Forum by taking step A (please consider steps B and C too):

A. DESIGNATE FPF MESSAGES AS “NOT SPAM”:
- Go to http://mail.yahoo.com and sign into your Mail account.
- Click on Spam folder to see contents (do NOT click “Empty” next to the spam folder!)
- For any Front Porch Forum messages listed in the Spam folder, click to create a check-mark in the small box at the left.
- Go to the “Not Spam” icon just above the message list, and click once. This will move any checked messages into your Inbox.
- Yahoo says this should train your Yahoo spam filter to accept FPF messages (however some Yahoo Mail users have reported that this feature is not dependable). Repeat as needed.

If there is nothing in your Yahoo spam folder, chances are that you’ve set it to be emptied automatically and immediately. To fix this, go to “Options” (top right), then to “Mail Options” and then “Spam” (left-hand menu) and change the spam settings to empty your spam folder weekly or monthly. Then repeat step 1A above in a few days.

B. ADD FPF’S “FROM” ADDRESSES TO YOUR YAHOO CONTACT LIST:
- On Yahoo Mail website, open any email with an FPF address (especially one that was sent to spam folder), or click message to view it in the preview pane.
- Click the “Add” icon next to the “From” email address.
- At “Add Contact” dialog box, confirm email address and click “Save.”
- Alternately, you can click on the “Contacts” folder and add FPF address(es) manually.
- Addresses to add include: members@frontporchforum.com, neighbors@frontporchforum.com, and [YourNeighborhoodForum'sName]@frontporchforum.com

C. CREATE FILTERS TO ROUTE ANY FPF MESSAGES DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX:
- On Yahoo Mail website, go to “Options” (top right), then to “Mail Options” and then “Filters” (left-hand menu).
- Click on “Create or edit filters.”
- Click “Add.”
- Filter Name: “FPF” (for example).
- Under: “If all of the following rules are true:” designate “From header” / “ends with” / and enter “@frontporchforum.com”
- In “Then… Move the message to:”, choose “Inbox.”

2. PROVIDE FPF WITH A NON-YAHOO EMAIL ADDRESS: You can either (A) replace your Yahoo address as your FPF Primary Address with one from a different provider (gmail, hotmail, your employer/school, your ISP, etc.), or (B) add a secondary email address to your FPF account. To change your FPF account, go to http://frontporchforum.com and click “Log In.” Once logged in successfully, click on “Account” and make changes there. Or contact us directly (http://frontporchforum.com/about) and we’ll be happy to help.

3. Continue using your Yahoo email address, but USE EMAIL CLIENT SOFTWARE, such as Mozilla Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/thunderbird), that will download your emails onto your computer for reading. The Yahoo Mail spam filter will be avoided this way.

4. READ YOUR FPF NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS ON OUR WEBSITE, instead of via email: If email fails altogether, or you want to look at any missed issues, you can read your FPF neighborhood news on our website. Go to http://frontporchforum.com and click “Log In.” Once logged in successfully, click on “Archives” and browse or search.


What to do when a friend asks you to post her message on your FPF neighborhood forum…

We frequently are asked about what’s “allowed” to be posted on Front Porch Forum.  Here’s a sample inquiry from this morning in one of our neighborhood forums…

For Michael – or whoever does policy decisions – I’ve been approached by a colleague to use my access to the Shelburne portion of the Front Porch Forum to circulate a survey (questionnaire).  I’m not sure that celebrates the spirit of the forum and want to know what your take on that is.  I know you do some editing as to the nature of the requests that go out and the person who asked me to use my access to distribute a survey mentioned that they, for some reason couldn’t (or didn’t feel comfortable) approaching the whole network with the survey.  What’s our policy – I’m in no hurry to distribute surveys through the Forum, but respect the colleague and want to help her, IF this is not an abuse of the Forum. I can tell you more about content if this is something we might entertain further.

My response…

Thanks for your inquiry.  In short… yes, please feel free to post the survey on your own FPF neighborhood forum.

The intent of Front Porch Forum is to help neighbors connect and foster community within the neighborhood/town.  This happens when clearly identified nearby neighbors communicate online… and, when it’s working, eventually more and more offline.  So, like a good block party, we don’t care about the topics of conversation… we just want a good crowd of folks to get together online and chat… heavy stuff, light… politics, work-related… weather or speed bumps… missing cats or a found cell phone… selling your car or trying to get a summer job for your teenager… whatever folks want to post about is fair game (with a few reasonable excepts… no person attacks, and we discourage repetition).

We know FPF is successful when we get reports that the conversation is moving from the virtual to the actual front porch.

One other point… we also encourage folks to do as your colleague has done… reach out to personal networks to spread messages (lots of nonprofits do this with their events).  Again, it all goes toward nearby neighbors getting to know each other in micro-steps.  E.g., someone in one neighborhood posted an announcement for a disease fundraiser, and another neighbor (stranger) saw it this week and was delighted… her little girl has the same medical condition and now plans to connect with this person.


File under “Random Acts of Kindness”

Posted to Front Porch Forum neighbors by Emily in Burlington’s Old North End today…

Yesterday evening I discovered that some kind souls from my neighborhood had surreptitiously replaced my tattered, duct-tape covered bike seat with just about the jazziest bike seat there ever was. It was the best surprise and you can bet I have been smiling (and riding much more comfortably) ever since. Thank you thank you!

Small wonder so many FPF subscribers enjoy reading their neighborhood news through this service.


Union Square Ventures invests in MeetUp

Union Square Ventures announced today that they’re investing in MeetUp.  I’m glad to hear it.  MeetUp has been chugging along, innovating and growing since its start in 2002.  I wonder how many dot.coms took USV money since then that are now out of commission.

Brad Burnham has an interesting post for USV and says, in part…

We agree with Tim, John, Umair, and everyone else who argues that the real impact of the web will ultimately be in its ability to organize people online to make a difference offline.

But none of these folks make the related point that for the web to have a greater impact going forward it will not only have to touch the real world, it will have to reach real people.

At USV we have been thinking about this challenge for the past several months. Our most recent portfolio company, Meetup, has been thinking about this challenge since it was founded in 2002. Organizing people online to make a difference offline has been the central mission of Meetup since the beginning. The team there has always understood that there was a difference between collective intelligence and collective action.

I take it as a good sign for our work with Front Porch Forum that a leader like USV is talking and investing in this way.


Gotta love great customer service

At Front Porch Forum we value each and every subscriber… that’s why we make a priority of customer service.  It’s great to see that effort reflected in comments back… such from Kim in Essex this morning…

I wish that everyone I worked with was as responsive as you guys!  Thanks so much.

And from Nancy recently…

I am so impressed with all of your efforts to keep our neighborhoods knitted together through Front Porch Forum – it is a terrific service (and the customer service is exceptional!)


“People don’t believe communities like ours exist”

Bonnie posted the following note of appreciation to her town neighbors on Front Porch Forum today…

Dearest Neighbors, Thank you so much John for offering your Subaru.  Your generosity is amazing.

Thank you all so much.  I’m humbled to think about how many people living in our community, were willing to help me out.  Many many thanks!

I’ve told people (away from home) of my car problem, and how it’s been solved with the help of neighbors in my community through the Front Porch Forum.  People are in awe, and most don’t believe that communities like ours exist.

With love and gratitude, Bonnie

She was stuck without her car for a period of weeks and needed a way to commute to work.  She reached out to her neighbors and cobbled together a number of free loaners… problem solved… sense of community enhanced.  That’s what FPF is all about.


Burlington Field Day July 26

This is a good fun…

Water-balloon toss? Shot-put with a bowling ball? Come show your “side-pride” as Burlington Field Day pits the North End vs. the South End in a day of fun athletic competition.

The third installment of Burlington Field Day will be held at Battery Park on July 26.  South Enders need to exact some revenge for last year’s loss to the North End… come one, come all.

Front Porch Forum, covering both sides of town, will, of course, remain perfectly neutral (go South End!).