May. 20, 2008 at 7:07am
Late last month Dan Voelpel emailed to ask about doing a column on FeedTacoma Shops. Happy to oblige, I met with him over at Commencement Bay Coffee where he took the time to learn about much of my career path from college to web developer and to my volunteer activities today with blogging and creating FeedTacoma and this new online local marketplace. He even took the time to interview a couple merchants already setup in the system (one I know and even one I don't) as well as purchase a gift himself so he knew how it worked.
Three weeks ago on a Sunday I woke up and went to my computer to check the paper's website. I was filled with anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning because the column was to be published and I'd have a chance to read what Voelpel came up with. But it wasn't there. Instead a piece covering the opening of 27th Street Station. Fair enough, I thought.
But fair had nothing to do with it. The article was killed. After some emails with Dan I talked on the phone with David Zeeck, executive editor of the News Tribune. He let me know that were this piece a simple, factual news item rather than a more opinion-based, endorsing column about this online storefront it would run. Unfortunately for me, local merchants, and the hard work Dan put into the column, the News Tribune sees FeedTacoma Shops as competition. Not because they anticipate creating one themselves, Zeeck said, but because FeedTacoma Shops presents a way for businesses to gain exposure -- which, of course, they should be doing solely by purchasing ads rather than having the opportunity of another avenue to sell their wares and open people's eyes to the possibilities of going local.
FeedTacoma Shops is a free community service for local merchants to help them gain exposure by pooling their wares together in one place. The News Tribune is a profit driven business, no doubt, but by allowing Voelpel's column to get swatted they've indirectly thumbed their nose at the very business community they court for investment in the paper via ads. I'd also add that they're actually short-sighted for doing so because FeedTacoma Shops, since it's free, only stands to benefitlocal small business and help them succeed. This success translates into dollars which would give merchants more of an opportunity to even have money to spend on ad space.
My apologies to Dan for this being only the second piece swatted from publication in his 5 year career at the News Tribune. However, I'll take this tacit endorsement and move forward. The glory of the web is that I can create a system like FeedTacoma Shops without a need for building a brick and mortar mall to help bring businesses together. I can also reveal the story behind this story without having to print on paper and have it delivered across the county every morning. The News Tribune has been supportive of FeedTacoma by way of contributing a few of their blogs. When it comes to thinking about new paradigms and ways to do things online, however, they've got a lot to learn.
comments  | posted under dan voelpel, feedtacoma shops, tacoma, tacoma news tribuneComments
by intacoma on 5/20/2008 @ 8:50am
by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2008 @ 9:13am
|I wish The [Tacoma] News Tribune would just stick to reporting the news and stop trying to be the one-size-fits-all communist underwear it wishes it could be.
by morgan on 5/20/2008 @ 9:39am
|I thought there had been a change of heart at the TNT when I saw the Suite133 story (another Voelpel column). After reading your experience though Kevin, maybe the Suite133 story was a fluke. Zeek's comment about the FeedTacoma Shops column being an "opinion-based, endorsing column" is too funny! Nearly all of Dan's columns represent his opinions and sometimes even endorsements, such as his recent story on the new Brown and Haley.
It appears the TNT is in defense mode based on fear. While the fear may be based in the reality of the situation, I think their reaction will only create a self-fulfilling prophecy - an end to their business.
While working on this story, I had a rather awkward experience where when I came into the room and was introduced as being from the Sun, someone on the other side of the room moved out of their chair so they wouldn't be in the photo I was getting ready to take. Turns out it was an editor for the TNT! We ended up sitting next to each other during the wonderful presentation and ensuing meal, but I had to laugh when she said "we" were her competition which is why she couldn't be in the photograph!
If the TNT views the Tacoma Sun, exit133, and FeedTacoma as competition, they are in serious trouble!
by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2008 @ 10:19am
If the people inside the TNT are doing everything they can to destroy Tacoma's Only Mainstream newspaper, it is up to us (the people) to do everything we can to save it.
look at what we've going for us so far..
1. low overhead
2. no friggin' popup ads
3. no annoying flash/animated ads
4. no asshole editors deciding what people are allowed to read
5. self regulation
6. decentralized leadership
7. zero money (immune to lawsuits)
8. loyal news tribune employee fan base
9. free hyper-local version of craigslist
10. contributors that work 24hrs a day 7 days a week
11. the freedom to be silly and even outright wrong
14. penetration into a paper-based newspaper (volcano)
Just as their weaknesses are our strengths, their strengths are our weaknesses. The challenge is how do we propagate ourselves into the TNT mainframe and change things from the inside-out to the benefit of both parties?
by Erik on 5/20/2008 @ 11:30am
|The TNT is obviously under alot of pressure and has some important decisions to make in the future. All they can see is the Tacoma blogosphere increase like Craig's list.|
Perhaps one day, they will embrace a more go local ethos. I think they still need a local cartoonist.
by morgan on 5/20/2008 @ 8:04pm
|I like where you're going with that, RR. I think it's like AA or any other 12 step program though. Until you admit you have a problem, you're in denial. I don't they're at step one yet.
If it helps, I don't view the TNT as competition. I really would like to think that we're all part of the same community working towards the same goals. It takes two for a dialog though.
by jenyum on 5/20/2008 @ 9:21pm
|Yeah, I think it's apples and oranges, or more like apples and coconut palms...
I understand some of their pressures. For one thing, they've got lots of people on the payroll and that huge operation/building to support. We wouldn't want them to fold anymore than we want Russel or DaVita to move out of town, but at some point they probably need to get a handle on what their market/brand is and stick with it and stop worrying about competition from the blogosphere or other alternative media outlets. This is complicated, I'm sure, by the bland hegemony of their corporate ownership.
by Daymaker on 5/20/2008 @ 9:36pm
|Why, why, why do we still suffer from this competitive BS? TNT, Exit 133, Feed Tacoma, Tacoma Mama, all do amazing things. It's like a child can't be loved TOO much when having multiple parents. Tacoma is so awesome, but we all still cannibalize each other. WTF? the TNT needs to get their one size fits All panties out of a bunch. Voepel interviewed me for that story, and it was going to be really helpful I think to small business and Feed's contribution to "going local". Too bad. thanks Dan!|
by Erik on 5/20/2008 @ 10:27pm
|Why, why, why do we still suffer from this competitive BS? TNT, Exit 133, Feed Tacoma, Tacoma Mama, all do amazing things
It comes from the belief that the media pie is a fixed amount and that a page view on Feed Tacoma must equal a loss of a page view on the Tribune web site and a direct and proportionate loss of revenue.
by jenyum on 5/20/2008 @ 11:13pm
|a page view on Feed Tacoma must equal a loss of a page view on the Tribune web site and a direct and proportionate loss of revenue
I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the web works. In fact, I'd say it's just about the exact opposite, the more available on the local web, the more readers there will be for everyone. Whichever site is their "gateway drug" is irrelevant, in the end.
by KevinFreitas on 5/21/2008 @ 6:58am
|...the more available on the local web, the more readers there will be for everyone.|
That may be right but each person's time is finite when it comes to their reading habits each day. Before FeedTacoma had so much going on each day, I spent more time reading sites like the News Tribune to help find things to blog about that interest me. Now, even with RSS feeds of the paper coming straight into my Tbird inbox, I read an article maybe once or twice a month there. Otherwise, I stay tuned into everyone's blogs.
Not sure how typical this is of other folks that get their news/info online but it can't be a trend the TNT would like to see happen with even one person. The more engaged and supportive "traditional media" is of the blog community and our endeavors (see swatted Shops article above) the more we'll find ways to collaboratively blur those boundaries between information sources.
Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.
So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.
Hey Clear Channel, Clean Up Your Crap!