When you buy something, you are voting for its existence

Most of us (myself included) could do a better job of more often recognizing that when we buy something, we are also, in a way, voting for it. Cost analysis should include an awareness of what message you’re sending when buying something or going somewhere (I want this beer/farm/news site/bar/zoo/restauant, etc. to exist.)

Purchase power has always been a way to show support, but when we increasingly buy that which is not tangible, it may be even more important to incorporate that support into the price point.

As the music industry has fought online pirating, it has seemed to have the most success in arguing to consumers that buying music (an mp3, a CD, etc.) not only ensures a better experience, but purchasing also is a way to support, and tacitly “vote,” for a favorite musician — whether they are getting the biggest cut of the pie or not.

For local, small businesses (yes, niche media too), the pitch has to be the same. We need to offer value to consumers, yes, but ultimately the audience needs to also see any purchase — whatever that is — as a sign of support.

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Choosing local impact or broader scale

Choosing between local impact or broader scale is a vital differentiation in our professional paths.

My buddy Daniel Victor was named the new social media editor of nonprofit public affairs news outfit Pro Publica, and so I reluctantly bade him farewell from his brief few months at Philly.com and with the local ONA chapter.

Having developed a good friendship with Victor, I’ve followed his exciting and deserved fast-paced climb up the journalism ladder: from Harrisburg, Pa. newspaper the Patriot-News to D.C. news startup TBD to regional powerhouse Philly.com to investigative, foundation-supported journo-brand giant Pro Publica. Knowing my personality, I took some time to think about whether spending the past few years building a very local, very niche outlet like Technically Philly was the right fit for me.

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Is your news organization a fire hose or a block party?

News organizations should recognize themselves to be either a fire hose or a neighborhood block party and, if particularly robust, they should have both and discern the different strategies for each.

After joining an Aspen Institute Roundtable in D.C. back in June, I met up with NPR Project Argo’s Matt Thompson, who I teamed up with around CAT Signal a few months earlier. As we tend to do, we got lost in a long and rambling conversation that came to a philosophical point from Thompson: not enough news sites recognize what they are, simply a fire hose, spreading their audience to what is interesting and important.

First, two quick definitions in this context: (a) a fire hose site has relatively large traffic with more drive-by readers and (b) a block party site has relatively less traffic with highly focused and more loyal readers. In our conversation, Thompson introduced the ideas of fire hoses. I started thinking about block parties.

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iPhone: my first personal smartphone and the first 15 predictable free apps I downloaded

My first smartphone arrived at my door yesterday.

Considering it’s late 2011 and I report for a technology news site, you can be sure that I got a lot of crap for it being only my first. Of course, as I explained, in 2009 I was a struggling freelance writer so I had trouble enough affording my prepaid burner phone. Late that year, I joined a family plan with my sister to cut costs even more and took the basic level phone: a sturdy Samsung texting phone.

Only now, two years later, was my contract ready for an update. Considering I had already made my jump into the Apple world, I bought into the hype, and spent more than $300 on the iPhone 4s. Of course, because I cover technology, I already had a clear idea of what I would be doing with the device and had played with them for years — though that made my awe no less substantial as I played with mine.

Still, I quickly added a slew of free apps that seem to me to be the staples. Below, a list of the free apps I first added to my phone, and expectations for getting more crap:

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How foundation funding could be protecting a journalism pay bubble

A journalist salary bubble may still be lurking somewhere beyond the newspaper right-sizing of the past decade.

We at Technically Philly are in the process of hiring our first reporter — to begin as an independent contractor expected to make something like $30,000 in a 12-month period. That’s a respectable, entry-level salary for a young, hungry reporter in a big market.

Unless you think otherwise. A freelancer friend of mine gave me a little grief, said she had a $30,000 salary when she started in 2004, expecting the total to have gone up in the ensuing years. I tried to remind her that in the years since she started, the momentum on subscription declines and advertising reductions have accelerated, not to mention a recession that stalled, if not shrunk, salary growth.

In short, her argument seemed to redouble my confidence that our small startup, for-profit technology news site was doing alright to budget $30,000 for a young reporter who would focus on reporting, social media and outreach. Her argument did something else though. It made me think there may still be shocks left in this generation-long restructuring in news from higher-yield print monopoly to lower-yield, online competition.

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OpenDataRace: talking on WHYY NewsWorks Tonight about the OpenDataPhilly.org contest

Near the close of the OpenDataRace, a popularity contest for data sets that affect nonprofit missions, I was asked onto NewsWorks Tonight, the daily, local drive-time news radio show from NPR affiliate WHYY. We recorded the segment last week and it aired Monday.

Read more about the contest here, see the data sets and register to vote here and listen to the NewsWorks segment below.

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I was on the program back in June to talk about the open data movement and other initiatives here. I got some fun comments from friends, like this one.

Number of Views:6974

Jealousy can motivate you to achieve success: Story Shuffle 9 (Jealousy)

How jealousy and other bad qualities can be shaped to help motivate you to reach your goals was the focus of the story I told at Story Shuffle 9, with a jealousy theme.

Listen to my story below or find it here, along with the other stories.

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Number of Views:2948

21 things membership-driven design resource Fab.com learned in its first year

My colleague Brian James Kirk shared these slides from a presentation from the CEO of Fab.com, a membership-based design resource that is less than a year ago. The slides and the takeaways are valuable.

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Boardwalk Empire: five lessons to learn from season one of the hit HBO drama

The celebrated HBO historical drama Boardwalk Empire, set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, is making its way through its second season, and I’m catching up, having recently finished watching the first season.

The well-funded period piece, with backing from Scorsese, Wahlberg and others, tracks the life and times of a character based on a real political boss of the time. It’s a compelling story, tinged with real happenings, heavily researched authenticity and complex characters. In short, it’s a great watch.

Having finished the first season, there are a few takeaways I found myself internalizing:

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Number of Views:185099

Philly Tech Week April 22-28, 2012: seeking anchor organizers and sponsors for second annual festival

The second annual Philly Tech Week will take place April 22-28, 2011, as we announced on Technically Philly recently.

We unveiled our media kit, made impressively by my colleague Brian James Kirk, which you can see here.

The open calendar of events was first held this past April, attracting more than 4,000 people attended at least one of 65 events held throughout the city and surrounding counties during the inaugural celebration. See my roundup of the event series impact here.

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Number of Views:2578