A New Chapter For BuffaloGeek

29 Jan


It has occurred to me that I am just generally too busy with life, work, family, non-profits and whatnot to really keep this site fresh with content everyday. After all, the secret to high traffic numbers is at least one post a day.

However, I am not the kind of writer who can put out 500-1000 words on a topic in less than a day. I also don’t have enough traffic to just pop up a link and say “discuss amongst yourselves”. I try to post long form, discussion-oriented musings on an issue and I can’t seem to do it justice with my current schedule. I know that I am not the only WNYMedia blogger in this position.

In 2004 when Marc Odien founded WNYMedia.net, he envisioned it to be a portal site on which mainstream media and blog commentary collided and offered something unique. Marc built a great community with high traffic numbers and attracted some great writers and community activists into the family. In 2005, I joined the team and we decided to make a little business out of this blogging/web media thing. At our peak we had 40 bloggers updating their sites every day with news and opinion from around the region. As time wore on, we started to focus more on individual content that was networked together through RSS and we had a few fits and starts with template designs that we though would provide some uniformity.

At the end of 2007, we weren’t producing enough content on all of our sites because we were so absorbed with managing the network, web technology, dealing with web designers, and our video business. Thus, some of our bloggers weren’t feeling the love from us and content dipped.

Our dedicated blogging staff became more involved with the community they write about and many had some life changing events like marriages, children, home purchases, election campaigns, job changes, etc. As a result, we found ourselves at the confluence of several factors which were taking away from the quality of our product.

So, as he usually does, Marc boiled it all down to a basic strategy; “Let’s collapse the writing staff into one central portal”. I’ve learned my lesson on underestimating Marc’s ideas in our two years in business…don’t sleep on that guy, people never see him coming. Anyhow, I digress. Most of us are not able to post frequently enough to carry the water by ourselves on our own blogs.

What we would like to do is collapse the writers into one site if they wish. If they wish to continue with their own site, they can. However, most of our writers have agreed in one way or another to stop posting to their individual sites and contribute to WNYMedia Central.  By the way, if you haven’t stopped by the frontpage of WNYMedia.net in the last few weeks, do so. We’ve got a lot of cool features installed with more to come. Each writer will have a page where all of their articles are stored with their collection of links and virtual tchotckes, but the articles will primarily be displayed in a traditional format like News, Lifestyles, Sports, Activism, Arts on our front page and updated two to three times per day.

For an example of what a writers page will look like on the wnymedia portal, check this out.  Not much different from what we have now, just a different wrapper.   In many ways, you can still consume the content of only one writer if you just want to bookmark his or her page or you can more easily consume the content from the wider community by reading the portal and subscribing to specific feeds like “news” or “activism”.
Before we make yet another decision in a vacuum, I thought I would ask what you think.  Would you be more or less likely to read WNYMedia if the articles were organized on one portal?  Do you see value in having a one stop shop for all of our articles?  Or do you prefer the individual pages like this?

If you primarily consume WNYM writers via RSS, all of the articles will be streamlined into one feed for your consumption.  Or, you can simply subscribe to one writer, but most writers won’t be contributing daily, they will do it when they have time.  It’s all about choice on the new portal.  Is that cool?   We’ll mix in news feeds from local print, TV, and web…yes, even BRO articles.  You’ll be able to comment on articles from all over Buffalo media on our frontpage. Does this sound like a good idea?  You tell me.

11 Responses to “A New Chapter For BuffaloGeek”

  1. starbuck January 29, 2008 at 6:35 pm #

    New concept is good, but could be more user friendly for fast reading.

    Suggest putting the ‘WNYM Latest’ blue box at the top of front page, strecthing its height a lot, and including much more text of each post so readers can see much (or all) of the post by scrolling or ‘page down’ key without mouse clicking and having browesr refresh.

    This would be in spirit of how front page’s such as BRO’s are designed. Could even borrow other ideas from them, such as how front page shows recent comments and uses category tabs. They’d be flattered.

    The other things you have on front page include cool bells and whistles, but probably appeal to smaller potions of readers and could be compressed and moved to side, or in some cases popped up only upon mouse-overs.

    Or you could have a secondary front page URL for something like what I suggest instead of having it on the current front page.

  2. Christopher Smith January 29, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    Actually, yes, it would be similar in some ways to BRO. In the sense that they enlist people to make smaller contributions rather than carry their own individual site. Lots of new media sites function like that and I’d like to do it and put our own spin on it. Thanks for the feedback on the frontpage.

  3. Derek J. Punaro January 29, 2008 at 8:18 pm #

    To be honest, for those of us that consume content via RSS it wouldn’t make a huge difference, other than there’d be a lot less individual feeds to subscribe to. Where it does make a difference is that when the content picks up, it can become overwhelming. With individual blogs, I’m more likely to check out a few I read frequently, and push others aside until later. But often with blogs like BRO, if there are too many unread items in their feed, I’ll quickly scan the headlines and then mark the whole thing as read.

    For the surfers, they’ll feel like they’re losing the individual voices, which may be similar to what it was like when WNYM went single theme. I could see some backlash against that. Most of the time I don’t see/care who wrote an article on BRO, I treat it as a single voice.

  4. MediaWatcher January 29, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    You’re proposed approach certainly makes sense; indeed, that’s a reason why it’s used all over the place. The separate sites spread across subdomains made little sense. And giving a blog page to everyone who asks is questionable, really. Unless you’re trying to be some kind of small-time local hosting company or a regional blogger, I don’t know why you’d give everyone a page on this ‘network’ as they add no value – and by adding no value, they actually subtract value by posting junk to their site.

    That said, I’m not sure I’d use this ‘idea’ as a way of validating anybody’s insight since it’s 99% of other blog sites work including those in your space – Buffalorising.com in particular.

  5. Christopher Smith January 30, 2008 at 12:14 am #

    Actually, it did make sense, it just no longer works for us. When WNYM began, there were a total of 12-15 active blogs in Buffalo. BRO was not yet online and many of the local bloggers decided there was value in maintaining their individual sites on a shared host and domain. With one repository for information, it was easier for a new reader to discover a plethora of voices in one place and the writers were able to maintain their virtual identities.

    With the exception of a few (Punaro, Kelly, Erin) most writers hopped onboard with the concept. Over time, many of those blogs fizzled out (as most blogs do) and there was an explosion in the local blog scene. The value proposition of a local “independent blog hub” lost some of its luster and we didn’t spend enough time tending our own garden to recruit and develop new writers. We value independence of thought and wanted to avoid the stilted groupthink that inevitably develops on editorially centralized sites like BlogTO and BRO.

    We thought we had a model that worked for us and it still does, we’re just making an adjustment to it. Each writer will still have their own page, but publication of articles to the frontpage of the portal will be simplified and we’ll be better able to drive a unified portal on which readers can discover new content. We’ll also be more agile when it comes to adding writers who don’t care about a personal blog page and simply wish to contribute articles on issues in which they hold some sort of expertise. I think what we’re trying to do here is similar to “group placeblogs” but with a small twist.

    As to giving a blog page to “anyone who wants one”, well, every blog has an audience. No matter how vapid or amateurish you may find some of our current and past bloggers, they all find their own audience. You might not like the way they write or what they have to say, but the site looks like Buffalo. Suburbanites, urbanites, businespeople, blue collar workers, politicians, government employees, students, sports fans, attorneys, and every walk of life has been or is currently represented here. Maybe we’re wrong for not trying to appeal to a specific demographic, but we don’t care. This isn’t a million dollar operation, it’s a site where people hang out and chat.

  6. Mike Miller January 31, 2008 at 6:47 am #

    Chris, I originally wanted to keep my own site, but due to the lack of available time, I will give it up to post on the portal. Is there some way I can keep some of my posts? I wrote some personal stories that I’d like to keep.

  7. Dan Meyer February 13, 2008 at 2:25 pm #

    I miss the “old” Buffalo Geek blog.

  8. Jennifer February 14, 2008 at 10:04 am #

    Me personally? I wanted to be able to access my blog anytime I needed to, which is several times a day every day and while I found your business venture to be a good idea, several times it did not allow for me to access what I needed. So very many changes in such a short time! I feel like I was just waiting for something more stable before getting back on board.

    And I started blogging way before Buffalo Rising…etc…as well and wanted to be able to continue doing the thing I love to do without bumps along the way (selfish, maybe? But I’m not a fizzler!!!) Most of my readers came from before I started the gig over at wnymedia and most of them did not like that they couldn’t just go to my personal blog and read the content without having to click links. And since I agree and want those 300ish people a day to keep reading, I switched over to allthingsjennifer.com until figuring out how to incorporate any of my posts into your main feed. If there still is a way to *borrow* repost? the content I am putting up into the main feed, I am more than happy to be a part of the team, I just know that when I started doing this, I did it for me…and I needed to stay true to what I needed.

  9. Christopher Smith February 21, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    Jen, we can certainly include your content into the feeds, that’s cool. I appreciate your desire to stay on your own, no hard feelings. You do what you wanna do, we’ll do what we do.


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