Knight Commission Report on Informing Communities: crib notes on the seminal 2009 project

Almost two years later, I read the entire Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, the report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities.

Debuted in September 2009, I tackled the 80-page document for “the Hardly. Strictly. Young conference I attended in April at the University of Missouri, which was dedicated to brainstorming alternative recommendations for implementing that report.

Not a journalism-only report at all and backed by a year of conversation, outreach and testimony, I wanted to share my notes and thoughts on diving into the seminal report.

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News needs to make more money on the popcorn

A friend recently told me that everyone should have at least one good analogy every few months.

He’s already heard my Journalism needs a catering business spiel, in which I suggest meaningful, public affairs reporting needs to be an audience or reputation grower for something more profitable. That is, if journalism is the low yield equivalent to a coffee shop, to really succeed, it needs a back-end catering service that really supports sustainability.

So I returned to another I tried passing: movie theaters don’t necessarily need more people in the seats, they need more people in the seats buying snacks. Because, the thinking goes (though hell if I actually know this to be true) that snacks and soda are much more profitable than your movie ticket. News needs to make more on the popcorn.

Meaning, simply chasing more eyeballs for more advertising hasn’t felt like a real strategy to me for at least a couple years now. Instead, we should be curating audiences of greater value, who are more engaged and, one way or another, help fund our work.

Technically Philly does about 22,000 unique monthly visitors, which is a fine number but nothing any big player would take notice of. But in that raw number, we are cultivating a community that comes to events [that attract sponsors], hires people within the community [and pays to use our jobs board] and, we think, will be interested in some form of membership that will offer free access to these and other opportunities [that help support the service we provide our engaged community]. In turn, we even fine haven’t an engaged and connected community has brought in some passive advertising [and resulted in actually successful campaigns] and other related funds.

Getting more people in our theater is great — and as we build community that is happening — but a bigger audience isn’t as interesting to us as a more loyal, more engaged audience, preferably one with popcorn.

Number of Views:3047

NewsWorks Tonight: talking OpenDataPhilly.org, SEPTA’s TransitView and OPA Data Liberator

NewsWorks Tonight, the daily, local, drive-time news radio program on NPR-affiliate WHYY in Philadelphia, invited me on for a segment that aired Monday about the launch of OpenDataPhilly.org and other new data initiatives.

Though I was sure to note during my interview that OpenDataPhilly was built by development shop Azavea, unfortunately that was cut in the tight finalized product.

Listen to the entire show here. Below, listen to my short segment with host Dave Heller.

In addition to OpenDataPhilly.org, Heller asks me about the OPA Data Liberator project and SEPTA’s new TransitView initiative. To be clear, while related in audience and now included in ODP, those projects were not specifically created by using the data catalog’s information.

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I was recently interviewed for WHYY on eBay’s acquisition of regional e-commerce powerhouse GSI Commerce, but this was the first time I appeared on the new local radio program, which launched in May.

Number of Views:2950

Philly Geek Awards: nominated by Geekadelphia for Philly Tech Week, Story Shuffle, Constitution Daily

As I shared on Technically Philly today, the team behind Geekadelphia, the playful geek culture blog, has announced the first ever Philly Geek Awards to take place Friday, Aug. 19 at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

I am proud to say I have my hand in three of about a dozen or so nominations. Thanks Eric and crew!

BEST NEW BLOG

BEST NEW PODCAST

BEST NEW ANNUAL LOCAL EVENT

 

 

Number of Views:3249

Art and Technology: moderating City of Philadelphia Creative Economy panel

What are examples of ways artists can leverage technology and how might the Philadelphia artistic community differentiate itself that way were topics of conversation during a panel discussion I moderated Tuesday night.

Held by Creative Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, in its gallery space at City Hall, I was charged with leading the Art and Technology event programming, our three presenters and moderating questions afterward. As anyone who knows me knows, my utility was more Technically Philly’s coverage of the intersection of arts and technology than any discernible artistic ability I might have.

I kicked off the night by offering some examples of organizations and institutions doing interesting things, as covered by TP or participating in Philly Tech Week. I then handed off to our far more competent and capable panel members.

The event was live streamed here. Some photos here. See my slides below.

Thanks much to Gary, Moira, Josh, Jeff and the staff at Creative Philadelphia for putting this, the first in a forthcoming series of events, together and for including me.

Number of Views:3153

Random Hacks of Kindness Philadelphia: organizing, judging hackathon

One half of the teams at Random Hacks of Kindness Philadlephia, held June 4-5, 2011. Photo by by Philip Neuffer for Technically Philly.

This weekend, I spent at least 30 hours in a windowless room of Drexel University for Random Hacks of Kindness Philadelphia, an international globally-minded hackathon brought to Philly by computer science PhD student and West Philly homeowner Mike Brennan.

It was actually a total hoot.

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Number of Views:2717

Fifteen businesses Philadelphia should poach from the suburbs and how they might

In a Technically Philly Entrance Exam back in March, Wil Reynolds called for reminding suburban companies of the value of being in the city: transit, regional hub, talent, quality of life, innovation and the like.

In truth, large companies followed their employees to the suburbs in the 20th century for many of those same reasons, in addition to space and taxes. I wonder if these companies would ever follow their employees back into cities. It’s tricky as Mayor Michael Nutter has repeatedly said during his tenure that he won’t compete with the region for business, and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Economy League have been built up around lobbying for the region, not for the city in particular.

I, too, believe in the strength of the region, but I think it’s disingenuous to ignore that Philly is both the region’s face to the world and its driving force, so Philly is the hub and everything after is ancillary. Fundamentally, I believe a strong region starts with a vibrant city. That means jobs to me. (Philly and Pittsburgh each have five Fortune 500 businesses headquartered there)

When I look at Philadelphia regional employers of large size, I can’t help but think of courting them for Philadelphia locations. It makes my blood curdle when I think of Philadelphia leaders who transplanted from homes in, say, New York but upon relocating here, they go to the ‘burbs. Admittedly, there are a lot of cultural and perception issues that go along with that, but I think jobs and high-profile businesses is a big part of that. So I got to thinking how you’d pitch these companies… and why it might never work.

Below is my list of businesses to chase and dissection of how.

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Number of Views:3859

How to choose a credit card for my small business

Over at Technically Media, I had a bear of a problem for a few days trying to figure out how we could get a company credit card.

We had no credit. We were a new business. Plus, there were three of us, and we wanted all to have equal footing. What was more, I struggled to find good, meaningful information about credit cards online, instead I found spam.

I took to social media and was repeatedly recommended American Express and other cards that had credit limits that precluded our new business.

I did a little reading — tried BillShrink, this BusinessWeek story and a Business.com option — but in the end, I went to the bank where we have our business account.

In the end, all three of us became guarantors — putting our personal credit on the line — to get a business credit card with a small starting balance. We’ll be able to wean off of our personal reliance, I’m told, and continue to build business credit, which is our goal.

Number of Views:5688

“Being a reporter is only lately a respectable occupation:” Calvin Trillin

Former Time and New Yorker journalist Calvin Trillin on why there is less drinking in journalism. He references this New York Times story on the changing face of big name journalists.

“Being a reporter is only lately a respectable occupation.”

Former New York Times reporter Gay Talese telling a story about drinking in his old newspaper days

Number of Views:2904

Can you be a star in Philadelphia?

Back in February, Philadelphia magazine profiled Doogie Horner, a quirky stand up comedian who has gotten some national attention, a major publisher’s backing and has the audacity to think he’s going to stay living in Philadelphia.

Doogie Horner is a comedian, and he isn’t encouraged by what he sees inside Noche, a Center City bar filled with binge-drinking 20-somethings on this cold Tuesday night in December. The room is jet-engine loud — not the ideal setting for tonight’s stand-up gig. None of the comics are getting paid. Horner thinks the guy who booked the show is a dentist. Seriously.

While the piece was largely a profile of Horner, there was this undertone of his still trying to make in Philly — a big city in population but not in celebrity or national voice.

Los Angeles has Hollywood. New York is the country’s capital of publishing, financial and TV. Las Vegas had created an entertainment industry. Other cities have a national voice by way of a central figure who forced it that way: CNN made Atlanta a news hub; Oprah gave Chicago a national platform; Warren Buffet made the financial world come to him in Omaha. So can you be a star in Philadelphia?

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Number of Views:3355