BackFence CEO and co-founder Susan DeFife has resigned from the company, amidst a major downsizing that saw 12 of 18 employees let go. Co-founder Mark Potts will serve as interim CEO as the company looks to solve what he calls “BackFence 2.0.” DeFife… notes that Backfence has built 13 sites in three metro areas… and got two percent of community members to register in its most mature communities. BackFence had received $3 million in funding from… investors back in October 2005.
Without more information than this, it’s hard to say much about this development. But, in the spirit of citizen journalism, let’s give it a shot!
Perhaps BackFence isn’t aiming at the right target. Stories that appeal to an audience across a 50,000 to 100,000 population, i.e., BackFence’s target (e.g., “city council enacts smoking ban in restaurants”) may best be reported by professional journalist, as has been the case for generations. Stories that appeal to residents of one neighborhood, supposedly the cornerstone of BackFence (e.g., “utility work closes Maple St. and Birch Ct. to through traffic this week”) are not of interest to the other 49,000 people in town.
So, a BackFence model runs the risk of combining (A) stories with broad appeal that may not meet professional journalistic standards with (B) lots of micro-stories that are each only interesting to a very small slice of their readership. This brings to mind Cathy Resmer’s piece yesterday about local news and community newspapers.
For comparison sake, after four months, Front Porch Forum has about 6% of metro-Burlington signed up while in early start-up mode. And, our content is parsed out into neighborhoods. So only the one or two neighborhoods affected by the street closure example get that message… not the whole town. The differences don’t stop there.