Archive for the “revenue” Category

Along the lines of East 20s Eats, Zagat’s is reportedly soon to launch a New York City restaurant deal site. As best I can surmise, members who join the site would get discounts to Zagat-rated eateries. Sounds familiar ….

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David Carr of The New York Times had an interesting piece today about sustainability and the Web-only It is worth a read for those of us on this project.

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We have come up with an ever-growing list of features that we feel should be integrated into the East 20s site. To make the list of items more manageable I broke them up into groups.

The first group lists items that absolutely must be accounted for in the initial framework of the site. The lists after that are features that are not required with the initial framework and can be added later if we decide we need to put them off for a bit.

A. Technical Features That Need to be Done by Site Launch

1. Fully-integrated database: A complete database that would draw together and organize all the information on the site — from profiles pages of restaurants to reviews to photos to mapping information.

2. Editorial content rating system: Readers rate editorial content, with questions such as, “Did you find this useful?”

3. Comments: Users would be able to post comments on all types of files – from stories to videos to slide shows. Rating system would allow highest rated comments to filter to the top.

4. Rating comments on stories: Readers could rate comments from other readers. Useful, or not? System would filter comments with the higher quality ratings rising to the top.

5. Restaurant/business rating system: Users – with just the click of the mouse – could instantly rate a restaurant and/or business or service that is mentioned on the site.

6. User profiles: Users would have their own page where all their information, photos and posts would be displayed. This would have to include a sign-in tab. This would include their top-rated restaurants, comments they’ve posted, photos they’ve uploaded, etc.

7. Mapping/Geotagging: Technology to map all stories, comments, reviews and other content. The idea would be to have a big map of the East 20s on its own page. Readers could zoom into smaller areas that interest them, or could search by address. The map would have a presence on the homepage, but would link off to the bigger image.

8. Reader alert system: Readers could sign up for e-mail alerts on restaurants or topics of interest to them.

9. Capability to post video, audio, photos and audio-slideshows, include a video player: For multimedia reporting.

10. Ad space: Space for different types of ads including banner, vertical and display.

B. Secondary Features (not required for launch but we know we want them)

11. Event calendar/meetups: Users would have the ability to post events or organize “meetups” around food-related events such as food walking tours, street fairs and the like.

12. Aggregation of news, food sites and neighborhood data: Feeds from local and specialty publications and all food/restaurant-related sites such as yelp, menupages, chowhound, eater, etc., and data such as restaurant inspections, etc. Content would likely be pulled and automatically posted via RSS.

13. Ability to use iPhone/Blackberry app features on Web site.

14. Ask the expert: Periodically, we could engage some kind of expert – a chef or nutritionist or food safety specialist – who would be available to answer e-mailed questions on a particular topic.

15. Facebook: Create a presence on this social-networking site.

C. Features that Require Audience Participation

16. Twitter-like reviews: Users would file the briefest of reviews, limited to 140 characters or less. We would use a hash tag on Twitter and display the “tw’eats” in a box or ticker on the homepage.

17. “Latest Plate”: Users could upload a photo and brief caption of the latest meal they ordered. These would show up as a photo gallery on the homepage. Restaurants also could pay to post photos of their latest dishes. These pay photos would be distinguished from reader-generated photos with a “sponsored” tag and a different color background.

18. Communal cookbook Wiki: Readers could post and exchange recipes. They also could suggest changes to improve recipes, all in the spirit of a Wiki, and they could post photos of their dishes. We could organize seasonal “cook-off” events around popular recipes in the Wiki. We could possibly get nearby cooking school involved.

D. Incentives for Site Use

19. Coupons: The ability to sell coupons for restaurants and services.

20. Subscription service: Establish different membership/subscription categories that would give businesses or individuals the ability to search the database in ways non-subscription users couldn’t. This would involve some kind of e-commerce technology such as a shopping cart and PayPal payment system.

21. Incentives to visit site: Users would be rewarded with coupons upon reaching milestone numbers for unique visits. For example, someone with 10 unique visits would receive a coupon for a coffee, someone with 100 uniques would get a free appetizer at a participating restaurant, 200 uniques would get a dessert, and 500 uniques $10 off an entree.

22. Incentives for posting content: Once a month, the site would hold a lottery in which the three top-rated posters of user-generated content would compete for a prize. The idea is that the giveaway would have an element of surprise, something like a grab-bag. These items could be branded items such as e2eats potholders, spatulas or kitchen towels. Those branded items also could be used for promotional giveaways.

E. Pay Services

23. Contributions for site: The ability to solicit donations from users for the site.

24. Consulting services for local businesses: Site would offer services to help businesses. These could include helping them build their Web sites, creating multimedia advertising, offering consultations on their menus and organizing focus groups to improve their business.

25. Crowd-sourcing service to raise money to pay for freelance stories.

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The CUNY-J School Conference on new business models included presentations by some interesting startups that are offering services for new, local news Web sites.  Here are a few to check out:

PaperG: a tech company that automates local ads. Its “Flyerboard” feature is now being used by a lot of bigger news sites such Newsday’s and The Houston Chronicle’s. It allows businesses to easily turn flyers and print ads into interactive ads. You can see it here in the right rail of The New Haven Independent’s Web site. This company also has the ability to allow a Web site to build full Web sites for advertisers who may not have one already.

SeeClickFix: This startup allows readers to report problems in their community such as potholes and graffiti, upload photos, etc. Those reports are then forwarded to the correct officials and hopefully they’ll get fixed. This service can be placed map inside a box (or widget) on a Web page . It’s a little general for our East 20s site but it might be something we want to include to build community.  This is a service that aggregates tens of thousands of news and blog outlets. You can set this for a geographical area, and soon, also by topic.  A feed can be shown as headlines or on a map. I thought this was interesting because we were talking about pulling news feeds about food in the city.

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On Wednesday, Geanne and I attended Jeff Jarvis’ conference on new business models for journalism at the CUNY J-School.  Participants included local bloggers, entrepreneurs (people starting new Web sites or developing services for new Web sites), representatives from the mainstream media and educators. The morning was devoted to presentations about a specific business model that Jarvis has developed  along with financial experts. It was detailed, and I will pull out here,  some points that relate to what we are trying to do.  You can read all about the Jarvis plan at Here are some of the points I’d like to highlight: (more…)

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The project has gotten bigger in terms of the scope of collaboration and a recognition of the need to incorporate other stakeholders and community leaders in the planning process and to predicate the project upon a great deal of community-based research.  This is requiring a longer development phase, but we think it will help ensure we don’t squander our resources and that the project will be useful as a productive and well-positioned test of the use of a hyper local news site for community and revenue building in support of sustainable high quality journalism. Professor Vera Haller is taking a leading role on this project, along with a marketing consultant hired from Baruch’s business school.

We are building a database of local businesses.  We have four business students working as interns and literally going block by block to gather information and then they are working to enter that information into a database. There will be two rounds of data collection.  Right now, they’re gathering basic factual information about local businesses.  The database will be incorporated into the platform we will build.  We believe the database will present major advantages across all three priority areas — informing and enriching content, revenue-building and community-building aspects of the project.

We are engaging local community leaders in an advisory board that will have input and impact in the development stage.  We want to ensure the site is going to be useful and that members of the community feel they’ve been included in the design and development process.  What we don’t want to do is to build the site and then seek to engage them because, by that point, their input would be less useful.  We want them to feel this is a community site and that means we need to reach out to the community before it’s built.

Along the same lines, we also are holding at least two focus groups to ensure the content and services offered through the site are designed with real information from the community and not just our speculation about what the community might want.

We are awaiting a proposal for a phone application that would allow those who download it to hear about specials in real time at local restaurants.  We anticipate that this could produce revenue from the consumer side and from the advertisers and also help to engage both and build community.

Based upon all of this, we will develop specifications for the site and its features.  We went through an extended period of discussions and research about technology platforms and alternatives.  We decided against building a platform from scratch.  We decided it ultimately will be more efficient to have a platform that’s based upon Drupal or WordPress.  We think that would be less expensive and would give us greater flexibility and control in-house.  Lisa Williams, of Placeblogger and M.I.T., has been extremely helpful.  What we intend to do is to use either Drupal or WordPress and then work with Craig Stone, who is in our journalism department at Baruch, in collaboration with outside developers/designers as needed, including, most likely, Duy Linh Tu of Columbia Journalism, to build the site.  The site, in addition to presenting multimedia content, will need to include capabilities for many opportunities for interactivity (including a click voting feature), registration of readers/contributors, rewarding readers for participation (free lunch or other prizes for participation-related contests), social networking, revenue-building (including advertising, coupons, contributions/donations), and measurement and assessment of user experience and success of the site.

We have some editorial content and will be working to develop more content through some of the intake being done during round two of the database data collection process (including multimedia content) and by hiring editorial interns for the spring semester who will work with journalism faculty.  In addition, and equally significantly, we will be aggregating related content from other food news sites, seeking to incorporate information from resources such as EveryBlock, Chowhound, MenuPages, and other sites, and encouraging/rewarding user-generated content.

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