Knight Foundation funds Philadelphia Media Network ‘digital media incubator:’ thoughts

Philadelphia Media Network CEO Greg Osberg announcing Project Liberty, which includes a tech startup incubation program. Photo by Liliputing.

The parent company of the two largest paid daily newspapers in Philadelphia is making good on its pledge to launch an incubation program. We at Technically Philly first reported on that pledge last fall.

We had heard of the likely partnerships with University City accelerator program DreamItVentures and the regional Ben Franklin Technology Partners, but what did surprise me a bit was the $250,000 in funding from the Knight Foundation to give it a go.

The initiative was a sliver of the Philadelphia Media Network’s overall Project Liberty, which focused mostly on news that the media company would offer subsidized sales of Android tablets with subscriptions to its newspaper content baked in. So, I’ve been surprised by the handful of questions I’ve had about the smaller incubation portion of the project. I’m writing here to answer them.

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Don’t try to sell for the first year but have a plan for what you’re doing to sell

I’ve been thinking lately about advice I’d give others about starting a niche product or, really, what I’d do differently myself.

In doing so, I’ve focused on business rollout timeline. The social sites of the web 2.0 world have developed something of a reputation around building audience first and a business  model second. It’s a plan that I myself remember doubting, but I wonder if I was just being naive.

It takes time to develop what you are, which certainly will dictate how you’ll fund it. Last month, I shared some of my favorite pieces from Gary Vaynerchuck’s book ‘Crush It. He shared some in there that is relevant here:’ “I didn’t make a peep the first year and a half of doing [the wine tasting video podcast] show. I didn’t try one biz deal ever,” [p. 92].

He was busy building the audience. The best marketing strategy, he adds, is just caring. So build a community and then figure out how to fund it.

It still worries me, I’ll admit, but it’s the ultimate trial pitch. Don’t waste energy selling into something that isn’t there. Instead, focus on increasing users, creating community and building engagement and, if the community develops, then figure out how to pay for it. If the community doesn’t develop, well, then, the project didn’t work out and you move on to your next.

That said, particularly in news, you damn well better have a good sense of what you intend on making money on. Make the business plan, but make sure there’s something real there before you dawdle on doing something about it.

Looking back at Technically Philly, it took us about a year and a half before we made a dime. That’s not for lack of trying and, admittedly, it was probably ideal that we made some cold calls and started conversations because we had to learn the basics first. But, now, when I give advice, I think it’s that give your project a year to grow on the side — keep the day job — before going all in.

I reserve the right to morph this line of thinking, but that’s where I am now. Whatcha think?

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Make your Facebook page better

Facebook pushes traffic and helps build an online community.

We’re over that. Joining Facebook and learning lessons from it is in the distant past. It’s time to have that next conversation.

I’m interested in moving to the next step, creating more compelling Facebook pages that keep people coming back, attract more eyeballs, develop brands, help create communication and, of course, help push eyeballs.

I’ve been moving through some conversations, trying to pull out the best lessons. I’m not behind anything compelling yet, but I’d love to do something fun with NEast Philly’s incredibly active Facebook page.

Some worthy reading below:

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How to migrate a WordPress.com blog to your own WordPress hosting

I’ve done this enough times to figure out how to do it without screwing everything up.

Suppose you start a project on a free WordPress.com, and, as it grows, you want to move it to a self-hosted platform version of WordPress, like I did with this site and NEast Philly and my thesis and others.

So, in case you need to do the same, here are the steps:

    1. From the Tools option in the WordPress.com sidebar, choose to Export.
    2. Download the XML Export file, being mindful that all fields in the drop down menus are chosen, so you are downloading everything.
    3. Open in Wordpad and change your file extensions with a Search and Replace. i.e. So, in the XML file from my thesis site, I replaced ‘phillypolitics.wordpress.com/’ with ‘thesis.christopherwink.com/’, meaning that the links would then associate
    4. *Make sure permalinks are the same from your WordPress.com to your new site.
    5. From the Tools option in your new self-hosted WordPress platform, choose to Import.
    6. Browse and choose to Upload the XML file that you downloaded from your WordPress.com and then edited in Wordpad.
    7. **Easy-to-miss step** Upon selecting your XML file, under ‘Import Attachments’ be certain to check off the box next to ‘Download and import file attachments’ so that your photos and other uploaded media will be transferred to this new database. (I’ve missed this step before to much frustration).
    8. Delete the old jawn — Take down the old WordPress.com or, if you want to transition some search engine love, you can block the WordPress.com from being picked up by search engines but keep it alive for old links with a post pushing to the new site and eventually delete.
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      History Channel: America, The Story of Us

      Happy Fourth of July.

      A couple weekends ago, while filing a lot of copy, I was engrossed in the 12-part History Channel documentary called America: The Story of Us.

      It reminded me of what the History Channel does best. In a world where the access to information is endless, the context of that information was powerful.

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      Number of Views:4652

      “Understand what business you’re really in. That’s what benefit you provide customers. Not what product.”

      The innovator’s dilemma: “Understand what business you’re really in. That’s what benefit you provide customers. Not what product.”

      H/T Tech Dirt.

      Economics of abundance: “Find the scarcity that abundance creates.”

      All of this fits into the news (and many other industry) fracturing conversation. Which might have led leaders to take more serious predictions, like this prescient one from 1994 about the future of tablet computer.

      Number of Views:3520

      FCC report: local accountability journalism is lacking, impact small when present

      The FCC released a year-long study on the state of local accountability journalism and the view is pessimistic, as the Seattle Times reports.

      A lot of conversation has come from it, and I hope to add some greater thoughts here on the 40-plus page document. Download it here [PDF]. Author Steven Waldman gave a short presentation at last Thursday’s Aspen Institute roundtable.

      Technically Philly is mentioned briefly, but in a section lamenting that what modest successes the Philadelphia market has had in local journalism is having a relatively small numerical impact, in terms of traffic. The report’s premise was defining meaningful impact by those sites that account for at least one percent of a region’s overall traffic.

      The broad comScore coverage also allows us to piggyback onto recent in?depth studies of local journalism in the digital age. First, the Institute for Interactive Journalism authored a recent study of the online news ecosystem in Philadelphia. They claim to have identified 260 local blogs, including “about 60 [with] some journalistic DNA in that they report news, not just comment on it” (Shafer 2010). While J?Lab does not provide a full listing of the sites, they single out several as particularly successful examples. Metropolis is an online news outlet staffed by professional journalists with experience in traditional media. TechnicallyPhilly.com focuses on the city’s tech community. Public School Notebook covers Philly schools and local education issues. PlanPhilly.com concentrates on planning and zoning. SeptaWatch.org provides coverage of local transportation. The Broad Street Review provides coverage of the local arts scene. The Philadelphia media market provides the fourth?largest panel in the sample, making it easier to find low?market?reach sites here than it is almost anywhere else. PlanPhilly.com shows up just in the February data, with 7 visitors out of 7967 panelists. None of the other online news sources show up at all.

      Read the entire report here [PDF].

      Important reading and takeaways:

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      Aspen Institute Roundtable on Local Journalism and the Public Square

      How the fractured media landscape can come together in a ‘public square’ was a dominant theme of a roundtable conversation held last Thursday by the Aspen Institute in Washington D.C.

      Along with fewer than 20 varied industry leaders, I heard the presentations of two new white papers from the institute, which are a follow up to the Knight Commission Report on Informing Communities.  This was the seventh in a series of roundtables.

      There’s quite a bit that came from the morning session, but I wanted to start by sharing some initial takeaways on the presentions and subsequent conversation.

      Norm Ornstein on Creating a New Public Square

      • Mid 20th century America created a public square with limited-choice network TV news and widely circulated newspapers. This featured ‘a common set of facts’
      • Future public squares may be varied, but there should be largely shared set of ideas.
      • This is a reason for partisanship today, a lack of shared perspective
      • Keep newspapers alive until business plans arrive — this could be seen through growth in tablet usage

      Re-Imagining Journalism: Local News for a Networked World

      • If journalism was created today what would it look like?
      • $1 billion in federal spending annually on advertising, largely national, but that could be brought locally to grow public affairs on a smaller level

      Questions I was left asking and interesting take aways I had:

      • The web has put a mirror to ourselves, and the web metrics question our belief in audience interest in our best product.
      • Aren’t social networks and other web-based tribes the future of the public square?
      • Can the need for heavy broadband infrastructure be someday trumped by advanced wireless technology for access
      • Steve Buttry: “We operate the only machine named in the Constitution” meaning newspapers
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      Hitchhiking in South Dakota: Story Shuffle 7 audio is now live

      For Story Shuffle 7, held in a fine rowhome in the Newbold section of South Philadelphia inside a beautiful and eventually stormy night, I told the story of my first hitchhiking experience in South Dakota.

      My lesson: trusting in strangers is a great risk that often comes with great reward.

      Check out all the stories here. Listen to mine here or by using the player below.

      Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

      Number of Views:6417

      Talkadelphia: talking to podcast about Technically Philly, Philly Tech Week, business

      For years, I felt there was a shortage of good, long-form podcasts in and about Philadelphia.

      Last year, Talkadelphia came about and has helped, offering weekly conversations with mostly younger Philadelphians in the arts, though Kishwer and Gino have traveled a lot of ground in more than 30 episodes.

      The pair visited our Technically Media offices, and we talked about Technically Philly, Philly Tech Week and starting a business. Listen to the podcast here.

      Number of Views:4783