The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the organizations I work with.
I consult with existing and startup media organizations, especially local ones, on their interactive strategies, thus the name: Local Interactive Strategies LLC.
Until April 2008, I was president of MaineToday.com, the interactive division of Blethen Maine Newspapers. I serve on the board of the New England New Media Association, a resource for people working on the interactive side of newspapers in the region.
I’ve been working in media continually since my teens, in print, audio and video. Professionally I’ve been a videographer, served as a writer and editor at daily newspapers, and started two local magazines. In 1995, I left my position as city editor of the Portland Press Herald, to launch MaineToday.com under the newspaper’s parent company. MaineToday soon became the state’s largest and most used network of news and information websites.
I trace my interactive lineage to 1980, when I bought a Betamax VCR, felt the first tinglings of control of media, and started paying attention to emerging theories of video on demand. The next leap was in 1987, when we bought our first home PC (an IBM PS/2) for our 6-year-old son Alex. The PC came loaded with the Prodigy interactive service and I got my first hints of user-generated content (specifically around the topics of Porsche 356s and the band Steely Dan). I hadn’t heard the word “disintermediated” yet, but it was clear that traditional media was irrelevant to this new way of broadcasting information.
In 1994, the Web emerged, and I asked Alex, then 14, how to build a web page. It was time for newspapers to get involved. Unfortunately, most local newspapers – if they paid attention at all – saw the Web as a threat, not an opportunity. Fortunately my newspaper was not among them.
Labor Day weekend of 1995, our launch put us in the first wave of newspaper sites, and one of the very few that were focused on pushing beyond “putting the newspaper online.” In the first national competition of newspaper websites, in 1996, we took two first place awards, followed by many other awards in succeeding years. We experimented with user-generated content, databased classifieds, community pages, video, audio, new definitions of “news,” different ad formats. I am equally proud of the business successes of MaineToday.com – the broadest measure of a media company’s relevance in its community.
Even after 14 years in interactive media, I am amazed at the continuing evolution of technology, consumer media habits, and the media business itself. Things that were new in 1995 – online video, for example – are still clearly in their infancy. All of that makes this a fascinating era to work in media.
Personally, I am energized by my latest role as an adviser to local publishers, and the challenge of discovering unique growth opportunities for each one.
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