Apparently not even the New York Times knew one of their two co-founders hailed from Vermont! Posted by Bob Isherwood on Front Porch Forum today…
George Jones, born 200 years ago on this date in Poultney, Vt. was a co-founder of the New York Times. Jones was noted for his honesty, which he, in part, attributed to his Welsh upbringing, especially tested when he, as publisher in the 1870’s, help to bring to light the corruptness of “Boss” Tweed.
This e-VermontFront Porch Forum “social media special” is provided with thanks to David W. Dunlap of The New York Times. The New York Times of 2011 is in the forefront of the debate/discussion of how a traditional daily newspaper stays relevant in today’s online, immediate access to news reality.
From Lost Remote today…
AOL is acquiring the hyperlocal blog aggregator Outside.in for $10 million, reports TechCrunch. That’s $4.4 million less than Outside.in’s total funding to date. As you might imagine, AOL plans to integrate Outside.in’s aggregation in Patch, its network of hyperlocal news sites.
The acquisition means that Patch can beef up its coverage through aggregation, which conceivably would include links to competing hyperlocal newspapers and blogs. Or similarly, Patch can reduce its original coverage by relying more on aggregation. Either way, today’s news illustrates that AOL is still invested in Patch’s success.
UPDATE 2: Mathew Ingram has a good take on all this on GigaOm.
In the wake of a rabid coyote attack last year on several people in Westchester County, N.Y., coyote-spotters have maintained a lively dialogue on the Butler Farms Front Porch Forum.
Chuck LaBombard, who has lived in the Oak Creek development for 11 years, is one of them.
“The coyote population has continued to increase during the past decade and I get it. We live in their territory,” he wrote in a January post.
“To occasionally see them on the golf course or in back of the development is one thing. To routinely see them on our sidewalks is totally another,” he continued. “Imagine if a child s pooked them or a lone adult was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My 11-year-old daughter is becoming afraid to play in her own yard… front or back! I am not a house-on-fire kind of person, but I am concerned!”
LaBombard and other neighbors have found no easy fix, and Police Chief Trevor Whipple has cautioned them against frontier justice in a crowded neighborhood: Firearms discharge is illegal within city limits…
Greg Sterling’s post today provided food for thought about online advertising…
U.S. newspapers are indeed in deep financial straights. Here’s a chart from Newspaper Association of America data…
U.S. newspaper revenue from classified, local and national ads are all contracting rapidly, while their income from online ad sales is still tiny in comparison. Total ad sales in 2006 was about $49 billion and in 2009… $27 billion. Wow. U.S. newspaper online ad sales has held at about $3 billion for the past four years.
However, stepping away from newspapers for a moment, online advertising overall is growing impressively. Charts from eMarketer project U.S. digital ad spending raising steadily at 10-14% from 2009 to 2014. Newspapers’ slice of that $25 billion pie is relatively narrow… only about $3 billion.
Will online ad spending continue to climb at this rate? Will it come at the further expense of newspaper ad spending? Does this Harris poll offer a clue?
People tell us they read the ads on Front Porch Forum… and our sponsors keep buying the space. Hard to know where this is all headed… but I do know that we get lots of businesses knocking on our door.
James Fallows article about Google and the news industry is worth a read. He hears from several Googlers who think that it’s all about (1) distribution, (2) engagement and (3) monetization. All critical elements, of course, but what’s missing is the dumbing-down of news we’ve witnessed over the past few decades. What do these elements matter — reaching people, getting them to read, and turning a buck — when all you have to offer is USAToday-type snippet-size pieces about the same topics over and over?
Here’s how Google’s Krishna Bharat put it in Fallows’ piece…
… he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.
The Google News front page is a kind of air-traffic-control center for the movement of stories across the world’s media, in real time. “Usually, you see essentially the same approach taken by a thousand publications at the same time,” he told me. “Once something has been observed, nearly everyone says approximately the same thing.” He didn’t mean that the publications were linking to one another or syndicating their stories. Rather, their conventions and instincts made them all emphasize the same things. This could be reassuring, in indicating some consensus on what the “important” stories were. But Bharat said it also indicated a faddishness of coverage—when Michael Jackson dies, other things cease to matter—and a redundancy that journalism could no longer afford. “It makes you wonder, is there a better way?” he asked. “Why is it that a thousand people come up with approximately the same reading of matters? Why couldn’t there be five readings? And meanwhile use that energy to observe something else, equally important, that is currently being neglected.” He said this was not a purely theoretical question. “I believe the news industry is finding that it will not be able to sustain producing highly similar articles.”
Moderating Front Porch Forum in our region while monitoring the local media in our corner of Vermont, I can share that “tonight’s top stories,” as decided by local professional editors, don’t always align with what neighbors are discussing on FPF. Indeed, a service like FPF is a great way to uncover the other hundred stories that don’t get picked up by traditional local media.
Update: Just heard from Knight… guess our proposal is back in the running. More later.
Original post: Regrettably, the Knight News Challenge judges weren’t swayed by Front Porch Forum‘s proposal enough to take us beyond the second round of judging this year. We’re glad that we made it into the top 10% of thousands of project ideas from around the globe, but it’s tough to take “no” nonetheless.
1, 2, 3… deep breath… okay, enough of that… onward and upward. Lots of other irons in the fire, not to mention the our daily work of meeting the needs of our 17,000 subscribers back home (which include nearly half of our dear state’s largest city!). These are exciting times for FPF… more good news to come soon.
And… the comments coming in on the Knight News Challenge website pack their own punch. Here’s a sample…
Front Porch Forum is in the running again for a Knight News Challenge grant. Check out our entry here and please give it five stars! (Just click on the rightmost star.) We’d love to read your comments about the proposal too (scroll to the bottom of our News Challenge page to leave a comment).
Thanks and thanks too to the Knight Foundation… they catalyze and fund loads of important work at the intersection of local news, community, democracy and technology.
The local Gannett outlet published an opinion piece yesterday about Front Porch Forum and social media…
… the writer is unfortunately misinformed about the depth and effectiveness that has been reached in filling the gap between formal local government assemblies by the Front Porch Forum… The FPF creators chose to capture its audience at the neighborhood level because people already naturally choose to organize and deal with critical issues in their lives at this level. So, in a way, the FPF forces government officials to “come down” to the neighborhood level and speak more openly about what they intend…
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 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.