An interesting take on Craigslist in Wired is now online.
Monthly Archives: August 2009
From marketing guru Seth Godin today…
There was an attention drought for the longest time. Marketers paid a fortune for TV ads (and in fact, network ads sold out months in advance) because it was so difficult to find enough attention. Ads worked, so the more ads you bought, the more money you made, thus marketers took all they could get.
This attention shortage drove our economy.
The internet has done something wacky to this situation. It has created a surplus of attention. Ads go unsold. People are spending hours on YouTube or Twitter or Facebook or other sites and not spending their attention on ads, because the ads are either absent or not worth watching.
When people talk about the problem with free online, they’re missing the point. Free is creating lots of attention, but marketers haven’t gotten smart enough to do something profitable with that attention…
Big companies, non-profits and even candidates will discover hyperlocal, hyperspecialized, hyperrelevant… this is where we are going, and it turns out that this time, the media is way ahead of the marketers.
And many Front Porch Forum advertisers would agree.
Beth’s comment to an earlier blog post here deserves to be featured… wow…
I am on the Westford Front Porch Forum and look at it as the best way to keep up with neighbors, get community information, form new community connections, and have healthy, respectful debates about local issues. In the year and a half I have been on the Forum I have found it helpful in the following ways (this is just off the top of my head):
1. Started a singing group
2.Found a new home for a friend’s dog
3. Debated the merits of town meeting vs. australian ballot
4. Debated the merits gay marriage
5. Been reminded of events at the library such as Women’s Game Night and speakers and then attended these events.
6. Started a local neighborhood watch program
7. learned about musicians coming to the town green
8. Learned what booths will be at the farmer’s market each week.
9. Joined a Westford CSA for local produce
10. Found a neighbor to help carpool to high school with our foreign exchange student.
That is just how I have personally been able to use the Forum. I also get to have an ongoing conversation about everything with my neighbors. I am not a major community organizer. I am just feeling like an active member of my community with this important tool. What is even more telling is that much of Westford does not have high speed internet access. While I know the FPF works fine on dial up, there are people who skip connecting altogether at home because they do not have a high speed option. I only see the FPF expanding as the options for connecting expand.
I talk about the forum at work (which is in Franklin County) and they are intrigued and would like FPF to expand beyond Chittenden.
It actually pains me to read that Brennan Woods is not making good use of the FPF when they have such high participation. It is an opportunity to connect that looks like it is being squandered.
And many others commented about the odd editorial in the Free Press on FPF itself (below), on Twitter, on Facebook, on Free Press online, on this blog, in letters to the editor (we’ll see if the Freeps will run any of them… not yet), and to me directly. From Patricia in Burlington’s Old North End…
I, too, thank City Councilor Marrissa Caldwell for prompt and continued attention regarding the Battery and Pearl crossing. Although I am not in Marrissa’s voting ward, she responded quickly to my first Front Porch Forum posting and continued with the second… The FPF postings also revealed that the whole design of Battery Park at its multiple points of pedestrian entry and exiting needs further attention from the city. Signs stating the Vermont law that cars must yield to pedestrians, speed bumps, and other car traffic calming initiatives were all offered by FPF readers as means to end the thruway mentality.
UPDATES: Good for the Freeps… they published two letters to the editor on Sept. 4 about this. And here’s one FPF member’s response, as posted via FPF to her neighbors…
Today’s Burlington Free Press, in Letters to the Editor, praises the Front Porch Forum for helping us to be informed in a democracy. I second this! Thank you Front Porch Forum, for helping us all, in our media-connected, busy work a day lives, for giving a sense of community.
UPDATE 2: The Free Press just published another piece about this… a My Turn by James Sullivan of Burlington.
More than one-third of Starksboro, VT, households have signed up with Front Porch Forum in our first six months of service there. Here’s one resident’s experience, as she shared it today with her neighbors…
Wanted you to know I had seven offers in response to my request to borrow a kayak for a day. FPF is a great service and I hope everyone already a part of FPF will spread the word to other friends and neighbors in Starksboro to join.
Let’s see, we’ve done favorite view and creemees. What’s next- favorite walk/run/hike/bike in Starksboro?
Kerry posted on Front Porch Forum today in Burlington…
Dear Neighbors – Thank you so much for all the wonderful recommendations that we received for painters. There is nothing like having a recommendation from a neighbor. We thank you and our house thanks you!
That’s lovely. And just now I see that Jeanne followed up with one of her own…
About those house painter recommendations…
Front Porch Forum works well as a community/neighborhood information system. If you are responding to someone’s request for a recommendation, please post the recommendation on Front Porch Forum rather than emailing the recommendation directly to the private email address of the initial query. If the recommendation is openly posted we all can benefit from the advice and it will be in the archives for all to search.
I couldn’t have said it better myself!
More communities throughout Vermont should make better use of social media if only to keep residents informed and engaged. More people are turning to online services such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to be informed (entertained) and connected.
Local governments must make every effort to be where the people are. The Free Press reports that connection is missing in many towns and cities. Many towns post information on their official Web sites. Some towns also monitor Web-based networks with a hyper-local focus — by streets or neighborhoods — such as Front Porch Forum. But these kinds of online tools are largely passive…
Yes, I agree that local government’s mission is well served when they make effective use of social media. But the reporting and conclusion about Front Porch Forum miss the mark. (In fact, here are two examples of past Free Press articles that reported just the opposite of today’s editorial… here and here.)
For example, in the City of Burlington, 40% of the households subscribe and nearly every city councilor, school board member, and state rep. uses the service. Most Neighborhood Planning Assembly steering committee members partake, as do almost all City departments. In all, 250 local public officials make use of Front Porch Forum in Chittenden County, our pilot region.
And their use of it is anything but passive. A call to City Councilors, like Joan Shannon or Bill Keogh in the South End, would have set the record straight. They, like many other public servants, make frequent use of FPF to engage voters about a wide array of issues.
Further, citizen use of FPF is certainly not passive… that’s who does all the postings… thousand upon thousand of messages are exchanged among clearly identified nearby neighbors through Front Porch Forum (as many of the Free Press reporters and editors should know from personal experience in their own neighborhoods).
“… these kind of online tools are largely passive” — that’s actually a better description of traditional media, e.g., a newspaper, where professionals provide nearly all of the content. On FPF, the content comes from your nearby neighbors.
Finally, “social media” consultants are a dime a dozen these days, and most are telling businesses, governments, nonprofits, etc. the same thing… get into social media and start screaming your message across many different platforms. Anyone deaf yet? It’s growing ever harder to get people’s attention and hold it, let alone to get them to contribute to a discussion. Gratefully, FPF is full of more than 15,000 local people, most of whom are tuned in and making a difference.
UPDATE: An update is posted above.
A guest post today from Front Porch Forum’s most recent hire, Jamie Seiffer. Take it away, Jamie…
For those of you familiar with De La Soul, y’all know that three is the magic number. For those of you unfamiliar, check this out. Three is the magic number for us because that’s how many pairs of tickets our friends at Higher Ground have graciously donated to Front Porch Forum. As a result, all of our neighbors (that’s you!) have the chance to enter a raffle for a FREE PAIR OF TICKETS.
Grammy award-winning hip-hop group De La Soul is performing at Higher Ground August 21. If you’d like a shot at a pair of tickets all you need to do is comment on this post.* You can post about whatever you want – how you use FPF, why you like De La Soul, an awesome show you’ve seen at Higher Ground, whatever – any comment gets you an entry into the raffle (limit one per person).
Here at FPF we use this blog to keep our neighbors (and everyone else in the blogosphere) up to date about Front Porch Forum happenings. These include unique success stories, updates about our progress/expansion, and fun raffles like this De La promo. La la la la lah, this is a D.A.I.S.Y. age.
*TO ENTER: Comment on this blog post below by 7 PM EST on Aug. 20. Comments on Facebook will not get your name in the hat… you must comment at http://frontporchforum.com/blog Winners will be selected at random on Thursday night and will be notified via the email address attached to your comment.
The “local” web is all a-buzz today…
EveryBlock has been acquired by MSNBC.com
From the Local Onliner…
EveryBlock currently covers only about 15 cities in the U.S. and comScore estimates its U.S. audience to be only 143,000 unique visitors a month (July, 2009). In contrast, competitor Outside.in attracts 800,000 unique visitors in the U.S. These are relatively small numbers, but these services do a good job of collecting neighborhood news without the expense of actually reporting it.
From Kara Swisher…
MSNBC.com–a joint venture of Microsoft (MSFT) and GE (GE) unit NBC Universal–paid several million dollars for the “hyper-local” information site, which is up and running in 15 cities, including New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Boston, sources said.
In June, Time Warner (TWX) online unit AOL paid about $10 million to buy Patch Media.
The New York-based start-up is a platform that does deeply localized coverage of communities on a range of topics, from announcements to news to events to obituaries. It is aimed at competing with local newspapers and other media.
EveryBlock takes a slightly different approach, scouring a mass of publicly available data in a variety of U.S. cities from a variety of public records–such as crime stats, building permits and restaurant inspections–and reassembling them into more comprehensible and geographically relevant news feeds, depending on what a user asks for.
And we’ve been asking the same question as Gotham Gazette…
… anyone familiar with the Knight News Challenge knows about Knight’s open source requirement: projects developed with Knight funding must be released under an open source license — it is one of the terms of funding. EveryBlock released their source code a few months ago, but Biella Coleman posed an excellent question
“Since the code is under a GPL3, doesn’t MSNBC.com have to also keep it under the same license if modified? Or can they take the code base since Everyblock is a web-based service?”
… And, James Vasile at Hacker Visions has an answer. It is a complex answer, and worth a read. Loosely? The holder of the copyright is not necessarily bound by the license a project was released under.
Fast Company magazine published story (Sept. 2009) about the state of “hyperlocal” news websites, with the typical emphasis on mostly huge international carpetbaggers (AOL, the Times, etc.) and their efforts to appear truly local. Most of the focus is on advertising dollars…
Hyperlocal sites — covering cities, towns, or just a neighborhood — can deliver precision-targeted advertising to local and global businesses. As the once-exponential growth rate for most Internet advertising in the United States grinds to a halt, the online local-advertising market is projected to grow 5.4% in 2009 to $13.3 billion, according to media research firm Borrell Associates….
Boosters routinely note that more than $100 billion is spent annually on local ads — TV, radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, and online. Although the stat’s origins are fuzzy, what’s clear is how aggressively folks believe those ad dollars are migrating to the Web. Borrell Associates projects an online local-ad market worth $15.5 billion by 2013, fueled mostly by small businesses ditching the Yellow Pages and local newspapers.
There is a gap between these rosy projections and the more bleak reality. Debbie Galant is the “Queen of Hyperlocal,” as crowned by new-media consultant and hyperlocal cheerleader Jeff Jarvis. Her site, Baristanet, serving Montclair, New Jersey, is often cited as proof that hyperlocal can be profitable. But Galant declines to specify what that profit is. “It’s real money,” she says. “We’ll share that our ad revenue is six figures. But we won’t go into more detail than that.”
The truth is that billions are not migrating to hyperlocal sites. “Advertisers have no interest in community Web sites,” says Gordon Borrell, CEO of the analyst firm whose statistics are routinely cited as evidence of hyperlocal’s bright future. “They don’t have the type of material advertisers want to be around,” referring to archetypal hyperlocal stories about high school basketball and drug arrests. “Sites are connecting the dots inappropriately.”
Even if the editorial mix changed, the ad model may be irreparably flawed. Consider the business model that Patch is pursuing in its three original New Jersey towns. Maplewood, South Orange, and Millburn have a combined population of around 60,000. Patch charges advertisers $15 per thousand impressions. If every resident in all of these towns contributed one impression a day — and all of those impressions were sold out — Patch would make $900 a day in revenue, or about $325,000 a year. Not exactly a windfall after expenses…
Ghost of Midnight is an online journal about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on Front Porch Forum (FPF). My wife, Valerie, and I founded FPF in 2006... read more
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