Oakland Local: Building a news site, item by item

I haven’t been posting here because I have been so busy fanning the flames of Oakland Local, wanting my new hyper-local site to catch fire. It’s been a month, and the team is expanding (thank god), otherwise I’d probably feel amazingly imprisoned by this new project, instead of exhilarated,
The short version is that we’re experiencing a nice little hockey stick of growth after one month, user uniques and traffic numbers climbing up.  This is great news, and we are providing news coverage, calendar events and community that Oaktown seems happy to have (and we are delighted to offer).
So, now, ask me about my own workaholic tendencies and how they have blossomed: Basically, I am totally obsessed. Like any new parent thrilled with their child, I am almost mono-focused.
What am I learning that has me so obsessed?

  • This is small business land extraordinaire: I am the one who has to get the grant money, sell the ads, and make the deals. Thank goodness I have editors and producers and writers who can work on the content and community, or I would totally flame out.
  • Our hybrid model both excites and scares old-school journalists, and those who aspire to be them (foolish souls): some journos are worried about our community focus and whether we will be edited enough; these feel like very fair questions, but they also reflect unease about the more un-traditional hybrid we endorse (and worries about our copy-editing, which we are working to improve).
  • Folks in the community totally get it. The breadth of voices and perspectives on OL is exciting to people–even as we acknowledge how many people don’t know about us and how much more we have to learn and do, on so many levels.
  • Oakland rocks.  Like my time at New Jersey Online, becoming absorbed in a region has its rewards, and Oakland is fascinating; there are so many people to learn from, and I am learning so much.
  • Video is a must have. Video adds color to text and serves as a substitute for text for those who are auditory/visual learners or who have weaker reading skills. When we get video on our mobile phones, the world will really change.
  • No one has it figured out, but those who collaborate will win. There’s nothing sadder than two non-profit entities fighting over traffic and yet there are those in the Bay who have that mindset right now. It’s more pleasant to be in the room where changemakers and community-boosters support one another.
  • Building a local news site is an artisan craft experience.  Every member who signs up, every commentator, they’re like little flames we want to fan so they grow bigger. We have no control over the community and yet how we welcome and react to it makes a huge difference.
  • Community takes the longest. 10 people–even 3–commenting on a site can make an incredible difference and create the appearance of dialogue. And yet community is hardwon, and needs to be nutured.

I will try to post here more often; I miss this blog!