Twitter is stupid and other lessons in hyperlocal content strategy: NEast Philly at BarCamp NewsInnovation

The second annual BarCamp NewsInnovation was held last month at Temple University — see my notes here.

In addition to sharing all the failures we’ve had at Technically Philly, I spoke with founder and editor Shannon McDonald about the progress we’ve had with Northeast Philadelphia hyperlocal NEast Philly, including most prominently the breakdown of where our content was coming from.

See here the notes from our 2009 BarCamp presentation on being an online news startup in a print-heavy community.

Below find the notes and slides from this year’s BarCamp presentation entitled: Twitter is stupid…and other foundations of our content strategy.

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Three months of social media growth for nonprofit Back on My Feet

Tracking our Twitter followers from January 2010 to April. Back on My Feet launched a campaign on the Web in January.

Last month marked three months since I started at nonprofit Back on My Feet and launched a concerted effort to share more member stories and help develop a better, broader online relationship with our volunteers, members and supporters.

The first step in that process was to reawaken our social media accounts — the best platforms to create Web communities and ones buttressed by an organizational blog that I hope to more formally announce soon. Because our organization is all about accountability, we wanted to see how we’ve done.

I thought some lessons or benchmarks might be able to be garnered for others interested in social media use by nonprofits or other organizations, so I’ll share our progress below.

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The Philly Post: City departments that need a Web overhaul

As part of a push for a broader readership, back in March Technically Philly announced a content partnership with Philadelphia magazine and its new daily blog.

Fellow co-founder Brian James Kirk has been writing most of the weekly posts, as he’s still freelancing. But last week, I filled in, penning a short feature on five City of Philadelphia departments that could use a touch of Web openness.

The use of technology to transform government has been a growing municipal interest in city halls across the country.

Here, the City of Philadelphia has announced intentions to release a service-orientated 311 iPhone application, it’s applying for ultra high-speed broadband from Google and it’s in hot pursuit of a funded team of developers and technologists which may someday make our every government transparency dreams come true.

The overtures are there, even if the substance hasn’t yet hit the pavement.

Read the rest here.

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BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0: My take aways and experience

I speak during Technically Philly's afternoon session at BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0 at Temple University on April 24, 2010, organization of which was led by Sean Blanda, at left.

They weren’t from around here, were they, shouted my neighbor across the street over the weekend.

She was talking about a pack of young journalists — from Florida and Washington state and California — who had invaded my Fishtown rowhome the weekend before.

That was perhaps one of the largest take aways I drew from attending and, by way of Technically Philly, co-sponsoring BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0 April 24 — the staggering drawing power of the event in just its second year.

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Four Cs of developing communities on the Web

Photo from Flickr user Leo Reynolds

I’ve been asked a dozen times in the past few weeks what it takes to develop communities on the Web. There isn’t any scientific response, but I’ve started thinking about four Cs that come to mind.

  1. Connection — Whether it’s a geographic or topical vertical, or one strictly based around a product, organization or experience, there has to be an identifiable reason for people to come together around a single site or platform.
  2. Consistency — If it’s going to be once a week, or once a day or five times a day, you need to remain consistent in connecting with your community
  3. Communication — Dialogue is sticky. Active communication online around your audience keeps people around and coming back.
  4. Compelling content – What is going to bring that community back to that blog, or social media account or forum or mobile application? It needs to be content in one of its many forms and it has to be related and compelling to your audience.

What am I missing?

Photo from Flickr user Leo Reynolds.

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Philadelphia newspaper auction aftershocks, including Hitler

There are new owners at 400 North Broad Street, the historic home of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, which publish online with stand-alone sister organization Philly.com. The movement begins immediately and will likely result in a closing by the end of June.

Go here for the financial details of the auction of parent company Philadelphia Media Holdings, which was taken over by debt-holding lenders, not the existing local ownership led by Publisher Brian Tierney.

Such large daily newspapers going on the chopping block at a time of continued media fracturing makes for national news, meaning intellectual conversations have ranged from how Philadelphia now compares to other big cities like Minneapolis and why the conversation around this city is so prevalent in media circles.

It’s also meant that the Hitler film parody meme that had a swift death this very month, has been brought back in — I believe — wonderful, insider hilarity. (Aside from the missing ‘been’ on the first subtitle.)

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Summer 2010 unpaid Content and Media internship at Back on My Feet

Your work and experiences with Back on My Feet will be more meaningful than this cat's, I swear.

I hate unpaid internships. I think they suck.

So I’m going to make the one I’m offering as meaningful as I possibly can.

Since January, I’ve worked for homeless running and opportunity-development nonprofit Back on My Feet. Homeless advocacy nonprofits aren’t known for being flush with cash. You can decide whether they’re even legal and what they say about our organization.

But the rules are a little bit different in the mission-orientated nonprofit world. I am the first in this role, creating what the media and marketing department of ours should look like.

And already, it’s time to bring on an intern this summer to help me with my role as Director of Media and Social Marketing in our Center City Philadelphia headquarters at 15th and Locust streets. The good news is that because I hate so much being unable to pay an intern, I’m looking to make it a meaningful learning experience.

See the formal Content and Media internship description here, but the short of it is that I’ll be looking for someone sharp and engaged and interested in social advocacy, the Web and content.

You’ll work with me on creating community and audience building via social media, including our yet to be officially released blog. I’ll be expecting 15-20 hours a week, but for the right candidate, I’m going to be flexible in time and space.

So, contact me already or spread the word.

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Seamless Workforce: Talking Philadelphia technology trends with Yoh

Sometimes people think you have something interesting to say.

I first met Joel Capperella, who works for Yoh, a 70-year-old technology staffing firm and business unit of Day & Zimmerman, when he showed up out of curiosity at a Philly Startup Leaders Fishbowl on Technically Philly.

In his role at Yoh, he contributes to the company’s blog, the Seamless Workforce. A few weeks ago, he asked if I wanted to grab dinner, chat a bit about the region’s technology scene and record some audio for their blog.

I sure seem to like talking, so I was happy to oblige. Below, I share the links to what managed to become a three-part series

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Failure is not an option, it’s a necessity: Technically Philly at BarCamp NewsInnovation

A year after focusing strictly on business, the three of us at Technically Philly took a softer approach at BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0, which we again sponsored and organized [Notes here].

The event was held today, April 24, 2010, again at Temple University.

Find video, our slides and presentation notes from our talk below.

Failure is not an option (it’s a necessity)

Five Stories about Failure

1. Ad Sales — “Until you have the right person, you are the right person.”

FAILURE: Wasted time, energy and resources. [Tried a half dozen commission-based sales people]

LESSON: We should have been selling ads ourselves.

2. Business Roadmap — “Don’t hang out with Brian. It’s depressing.”

FAILURE: We thought we’d be making money by month three.

LESSON: Double or triple the time your business plan will take.

3. Business Criticism — “To be honest, we’re not always sure what [Technically Philly is] trying to accomplish.”

FAILURE: Uh, we were criticized in a best-of issue.

LESSON: If you’re noticed, your work will be scrutinized.

4. Potential Partners — “I don’t see the point of meeting.”

FAILURE: Turned down an opportunity to meet with a key business leader.

LESSON: In this new media environment, everyone is a potential partner.

5. Investment (sappy anecdote) — “Well, that wasn’t THAT depressing.”

FAILURE: We started Technically Philly (and said some silly things in front of important people).

LESSON: We’ve learned much, met many people and improved what we know in the space of journalism.

The presentation is also available here. See and hear the presentation from Samurai Tours here.

When we were asked for more embarrassing stories, we realized we should have also shared the story of our speaking engagement with the Women’s Press Association of Pennsylvania, in which no one showed except the organizer and former Philadelphia mayoral candidate Queena Bass. Or we could have told one of the half dozen times Sean has been under dressed when going to cover events.

It was a fun session with a few practical takeaways, we hope. If nothing else, it seemed well-received.

Some Tweets

  • Anthony Ruiz of Samurai Virtual Tours quotes me about being stupid
  • Freelancer Amy Z Quinn agrees on the concept
  • Freelancer Morgan Zalot picks up on our swearing working in threes is the best
  • Newspaper company digital chief Jason Krustifek noted our take that everyone can be a partner.
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William Penn Foundation details plan for Philadelphia online journalism network

Updated 4/25/10 @ 5:41 p.m. with William Penn Foundation clarification

Fewer than four months after its Philadelphia media elite round table to discuss the subject, the William Penn Foundation has released a more detailed outline of its intentions of investing and developing local online journalism in the region.

The report, which was released Wednesday, comes from the J-Lab journalism institute at American University and its Executive Director, Pulitzer Prize winner and former Philadelphia Inquirer business editor Jan Schaffer.

“While we’re not ready to brand the project at this point, it is fair to characterize what we have in mind as an independent journalism collaborative,” said the foundation’s President Feather Houstoun in an e-mail to stakeholders in the initiative.

The final report, which can be read in its entirety here, tacitly outlines the steps to develop roughly two things: (1) a central website of public affairs coverage and (2)  a journalism collaboration by way of staff, funding and shared administrative and business services — which I like to think was at least partially influenced by our pushing on with News Inkubator.

Updated: The William Penn Foundation will not “necessarily” implement what was found in the report, communications director Brent Thompson told me.

More broadly, as Schaffer wrote in an e-mail to those she interviewed in her months-long research: “After a deep analysis of the media landscape, J-Lab has recommended that Philadelphia is ripe for a unique Networked Journalism collaborative, partnering new media makers with original reporting on public affairs.”

It’s a quick and more detailed move less than half a year a large stakeholders meeting that was less than decisive.

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