Monthly Archives: November 2007

New West… “great content and local authenticty”

John Kelsey writes today…

In 2005, Jonathan Weber launched New West Publishing, an online independent local media company designed to serve the “culture, economy, politics, environment and life style of the Rocky Mountain West.” Today NewWest.net is structured as a regional publication that also focuses in on seven local markets. He reiterated… the difficulty of selling local online advertising. Success requires patience and persistence, the blocking and tackling of the online local media business. At the same time, you need talented players and a good strategy. These could be described as great content and local authenticity.

What I find most refreshing about New West is that Weber resisted the forces encouraging him to replicate his platform in other markets (New South, New China, etc.). Unlike most other entrepreneurs in the city guide and free DA business, Weber said, let’s do this right in one market area and then, and only then, consider expansion.

Great content and local authenticity… that’s a winner. And that combination appears to be in short supply.

Yahoo’s Neighbors

Greg Sterling writes today about Yahoo’s new trial service called Neighbors…

Yahoo! has introduced a very interesting new feature on Local: Neighbors. A new tab will appear, “Neighbors,” that offers a community discussion area and organizing tool…

Lessons from the Dot.com Graveyard

Andy Sack, former CEO of Judy’s Book, shared some lessons learned this week on his blog…

The first mistake: we weren’t aggressive enough in customer acquisition…

The second mistake: we expanded out of Seattle in August 2005 and went national… Ultimately, this decision prevented us from focusing on the customer acquisition problem I mentioned above as well as other improvements that would have made our product more sticky and compelling…

Interesting insights for Front Porch Forum to consider as we look to expand beyond our initial community.

It’s a bit apples-to-oranges, but I wonder how Craiglist in San Francisco compared to Judy’s Book in Seattle before each decide to expand beyond their original city?  My sense is that Craigslist benefited from a much more solid homebase than Judy’s Book… but I don’t have any numbers to back that up.

iBrattleboro Sued for Libel

David Ardia’s post just alerted me to the fact that iBrattleboro is being sued for libel over something written in the comment section of their site.

RIP Enthusiast Group

Steve Outing offers his “lessons learned” on  the just-dead Enthusiast Group (“experiment in grassroots media and social networking (as applied to niche sports)”).  Here’s one of his lessons that caught my eye…

If citizen-content-exclusive destination sites don’t make sense when it comes to hyperlocal content, what else can you do with user-submitted content? Another approach is to focus on micro-targeting the citizen submissions. I’m intrigued by websites like YourStreet.com, which geo-tags local news and information and puts it on a map mash-up. Using a model like YourStreet’s, a news organization might create a map service that presents hyperlocal (geo-tagged) content on neighborhood maps.

While I live in Boulder, Colorado, I couldn’t care less about news from schools or community organizations serving neighborhoods across town. But I care a lot about anything to do with the school near my house that my daughter attends. I care about the announcement from the local fire station about staffing changes. So targeting that sort of news and information to me is a powerful service that a news company can provide. (Of course, I’d want the option to expand the range of micro-news and information that I view.)

If you can gather, slice and dice hyperlocal citizen news and information, think too about disseminating it outside of your own website. Create a customizable widget that a neighborhood blogger, say, can include on his site to offer his readers links to news and information pertinent to his neighborhood. That’ll drive traffic back to your website, or might include ads that you place within the widget. Win-win.

If a news website can filter the minutiae (from a wide variety of sources, internal and external to the news organization) that’s relevant to a specific online user, and present that in context with the professionally produced output of the news organization, then I think you’ve got something valuable.

Craigslist Simple and Effective

Cameron Ferroni of Marchex wrote today about the special place Craigslist holds for him…

… it really boils down to the fact that the simplicity of the experience and the personal nature of the interactions make this stand head and shoulder above any other online service of its type. For those of us in the industry we would do well to take this to heart – and maybe, just maybe, spend less time worried about our slick UI, our SEO strategies, and our mapping technology, and spend more time worried about the specific value proposition for users.

Some of our members compare Front Porch Forum to Craigslist along these points… simple and extremely effective on a few fronts… period.  We get lots of interesting suggestions for new features and we’ve implemented some and will add others over time… but I’m excited to stay true to our initial premise of “simple and effective.”

Seeking Santa Suit… and Santa to fill It

Here’s a first for Front Porch Forum (from Tracy in Westford, VT)…

We’d love to have a guest reader in the form of a big man in a red suit at the pajama story time at the library the evening of December 19th.  We’re in search of a Santa suit… if it comes complete with someone to fill it, that’s great, but if it doesn’t we should definitely be able to find someone to fill that part of the bill, as long as we can find a suit!

Neighbor Mutual Aid Society

Michele and Tom posted the following note on their FPF neighborhood forum in Essex yesterday…

I would love to see the Forum used for sharing ideas and helping each other out with yardwork, household jobs that need an extra hand, and possibly even lending tools or coming with your tools to help a neighbor. Is anyone interested in an informal group like this? It would be a sort of mutual aid society to help people who may not know how to do certain tasks, just need some advice, or to work together to know each other and get a job done more quickly and done right!!

Great idea!  And one that we’ve seen take hold in several parts of our pilot region where Front Porch Forum is flourishing.

Local Online: Authentic Impact vs. Fluff

Lauren writes in today…

I just want to write and give my thanks for what you have created. The forum is great. For me it provides a sense of community and neighborliness that I didn’t think was possible to achieve anymore.

I am sure you have much evidence by now of the Forum actively changing communities as well, and I wanted to toss in my own example. I’ve just learned that my community (Westford) doesn’t currently have a food shelf in operation. Thanks to Front Porch Forum, having a community-wide conversation about how best to fill this need is a cinch. I have no doubt that, with the help of neighbors rallied to the cause, we’ll have one up and running in no time.

You must know that not a community meeting – or practically any public-oriented conversation – goes by without FPF being tossed into the mix.

What a wonderful gift you have given to us all.

You know, Front Porch Forum stands conventional Web 2.0 thinking on its head on many points. I’ve heard from several Silicon Valley experts about how we should change course and line up like every other local social networking attempt. It’s a full-time job tracking all these vowel-deprived start-ups and the countless millions of investor dollars that they’re spending.

But sites that make a genuine difference in people’s lives and their sense of local community… that’s something altogether different. We’ll gladly keep moving along our path… and thanks to Lauren for this latest example of everyday folks making great use of Front Porch Forum in their home town.

Honing in online maps

Maps are important to neighborhood level online social networking.  From an announcement received today

Placebase, Inc., the makers of the Pushpin online mapping platform, today announced a partnership with Urban Mapping Inc. (UMI), the leading provider of enhanced of local interactive content. As part of this agreement, Urban Mapping’s neighborhood boundary database will be available on the Pushpin platform. A demonstration site is available at: http://www.pushpin.com/urbanmapping

This is similar to what the good folks at Maponics provide I believe.

Also, from Google Maps today… people can now drag address markers for businesses and houses to a more precise location.  So Google is asking its millions of users to do the honing in that it can’t currently do through brute force.  Seems like a good move.

I wonder how many addresses we have in the United States?  We have about 300 million people and 2.5 or so people/household… so about 120 million households (some of those in multi-unit buildings) plus businesses, institutions, etc.  I wonder what percentage of these millions of buildings could have their location refined via Google’s registered users?

And a wish… that the Google Maps API used better data… or, perish the thought, that is used the same data as Google Maps.