Examiner.com interview on work with Technically Philly

I was interviewed for the local vertical of Examiner.com by local marketing specialist Megan Smith.

When my firm signed new client Tek Lado – a bilingual, technology and pop culture magazine – we suddenly had to immerse ourselves in Philadelphia’s tech scene. And word on the street was that Technically Philly was one of the key places to start. I began reading the site daily, learning more about “the trends, the news and the people that affect, and the events that include, Philadelphia’s growing technology community.” In the process, I may or may not have stalked Technically Philly’s co-founder Christopher Wink to learn a little more… MORE

Read the full interview here.

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Telling stories with authenticity and complexity: or why Unstoppable sucked

Action movies are supposed to be implausible.

The action is meant to be superhuman — more violent, more outrageous, more daring and impossible than the last. They are not, then, in my opinion, necessarily good stories.

They can be entertaining — with explosions, scene cuts and new sights — but I don’t look for an action movie to tell a compelling story.

Recently, I saw Unstoppable, the new Denzel Washington movie. The promotion around the movie certainly had an action element to it, but the trailer and Washington’s past roles triggered to me a belief there might be something a bit more provocative to the movie.

There wasn’t. I didn’t particularly like the film, though I suppose I didn’t hate it, but it did make me think about what makes good writing and, really, helps make good journalism and what Unstoppable didn’t have elements of either.

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Five interesting lessons from Jay-Z interview with Terry Gross

NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross interviewed rapper and cultural icon Jay-Z last month and it proved one of the more interesting episodes of one of the best, longest-running radio shows around. Jay-Z was promoting his new book Decoded (about which Amazon has an interesting video interview).

You should go ahead and listen to the interview right now.

All the highlights are here, but you should look for these discussions in particular, all of which can be found in this transcript, in addition to another longer-form interview.

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Back on My Feet presence online ten months later

Click to enlarge.

Today is my final day serving as the Media Director of homeless advocacy nonprofit Back on My Feet, after first joining in mid-January 2010.

Social media is just one of five major areas of responsibility, as I noted in my resignation notice here, so much of the growth and direction came in the first three months of my time here.

So, there is much more I could have done in this space, but I wanted to debrief specifically on this area of my work:

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Cobblestone: a WordPress-plugin and local Crunchbase Knight application

From Flickr user IceNineJon

Image of Old City Philadelphia cobblestone courtesy of Flickr user IceNineJon.

In the future, this project leads to:

  • Open source platform for other regionally-grouped niche sites to come together.
  • Community-edited profiles of local focus and meaning (i.e. city government lobbyists, community associations presidents and other leaders who might otherwise remain anonymous)
  • A cross-platform tool that can go beyond WordPress and work with meta data from other CMS.
  • Membership model based on support of an entire local news collaborative network.
  • Ad network integration, further connecting disparate niche sites
  • This will connect and encourage collaboration between other and future content providers in Philadelphia.

Niche news sites need to be brought together to strengthen the future of journalism.

Last year, we at Technically Philly started that hunt with a Knight News Challenge application for News Inkubator, a business services hub and incubation space for independent news startups. We didn’t make the cut, but we have taken to bootstrapping the concept by starting with an advertising network.

Today is the 2010 Knight News Challenge grant deadline, and we’ve continued that focus.

We took time to learn that our News Inkubator proposal was too broad and focused on trying to find smaller, more actionable steps, particularly ones that could work with other larger investment.

In doing so, we’re introducing Cobblestone, a proposed tagging WordPress plugin that will feed a searchable, dynamically updated, mobile-friendly directory platform homepage with content from various partners.

See our Knight application here.

Though we think it has real monetary value — considering it is based on a Technically Philly directory aimed at a membership model — this is a decidedly more editorial-first focus. Get the niche sites together, and we can build revenue together.

Perhaps the first question we expect to be asked: why is this different than Google alerts and RSS feeds?

Cobblestone gives tag-specific and cross-partner content some place to live. Once the alerts of Bill Green or the feeds from each of the partner sites pass in time, they are lost. This creates a true homepage.

Below, see our application, which you can also see here:

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Lessons on creating an effective nonprofit newsletter

Pull media, like social networks, are incredibly powerful, but the power of the push media of email hasn’t much waned.

Nonprofits, companies and organizations still rely on its ability to land in the inboxes of busy readers, consumers and supporters. Since announcing that I’m leaving Back on My Feet, I’ve taken a bit deeper a look at the metrics behind the monthly newsletter and blasts that remains a large part of our outreach efforts.

I was proud of some progress we worked to make with our use of email marketing during my tenure there, though I didn’t find the time to focus on as much development as I would have liked (by offering more robust A/B tests and such).

More importantly, there are a dozen take aways, some of which may seem intuitive, that I can now comfortably call lessons:

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News roundups: own your niche, learn and link when starting any content creation

It's a roundup: Cowboys and pickup trucks push the herd of buffalo across Lame Johnny Road during Monday morning's Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Monday. (Kristina Barker/Journal staff)

This fall, I started doing something on the Back on My Feet blog that should probably be the first step of every community news site ever: a weekly aggregated roundup of existing news on homelessness.

It’s something I advocate to any content creator in which I am involved.

A primary rule of anyone with mission today is to share content related to that mission, as you probably can pretty easily beat bigger media on issues relevant to your work.

But the specific virtue of a simple roundup can be profound. It follows any number of rules of the web today.

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Someone else is doing a better job of tracking community news sites

About a year ago, I hadn’t come across a good list of someone trying to track all of the community news sites worth covering. So I did so myself.

I only recently come across someone doing a much better job of it, so I’ll leave it to her.

For the Reynolds Journalism Institute, Michele McLellan has dug in and created four main and seven overall categories for the always growing list of community sites.

It’s interesting to watch these numbers swell. Below, check out her categories and follow links to her lists.

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Newsworks: WHYY online news brand launching means a lot to these legacies

A lot of legacies over at WHYY are going to be forged with whatever comes out of Newsworks, the online news re-branding and redevelopment initiative from Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate that I first wrote about back in April.

In short, NewsWorks, which had its official launch last Monday, Nov. 15, is WHYY’s new online news brand, serving as home to its existing journalism, in addition to (A) new columns, (B) calls for community contributions and (C) a trial hyperlocal push in northwest Philadelphia.

It’s a big bold swing and at least four years in the making.

Indeed, where Newsworks is a year or two from now will mean a great deal to the entire news ecosystem of Philadelphia, at least. Some of those people who come to mind:

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What the Knight News Challenge could learn from ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’

The Knight News Challenge is once again alive.

The deadline for applications in the fifth annual media innovation pitch series from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is, as deadlines tend to do, rapidly approaching: Dec. 1.

It was only back in June that the recipients of the 2010 Knight News Challenge grants were announced, for which you can see commentary from the Nieman Journalism Lab here.

In other news, ABC this fall announced that outspoken billionaire and Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban and comedian Jeff Foxworthy would be joining a handful of venture capitalists on the second season of made-for-TV, speed investment pitch reality show “Shark Tank.”

Despite being influenced by a popular Japanese program format and easily being among the most interesting reality TV shows I’ve ever seen, “Shark Tank” wasn’t the ratings success ABC may have wanted.

Popular or not, from when the show first debuted and even more so this year, I think there is plenty the Knight News Challenge should take from “Shark Tank.”

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