Locally Grown’s membership option: what might the benefits be?

Logrono bannerWe’re planning on offering a paid Locally Grown membership option Real Soon Now. The idea is to continue some (much?) of what we do now for free, maybe supported with ads.

But we’d also offer a paid option in which a variety of benefits are available to members only. So what might the benefits be? I’ve thought of four and would like to hear a reaction to these, as well as ideas on other possible benefits. (continued)

  • Moderated real-time online chats on local issues, featuring community leaders and other notable guests
  • Moderated face-to-face (F2F) events on local issues, featuring community leaders and other notable guests
  • Special deals (discounts, perks, coupons, etc.) at area businesses
  • No annoying membership campaign promos

What else?

67 thoughts on “Locally Grown’s membership option: what might the benefits be?”

  1. It might also help to keep those rightwing wingnuts away…..
    🙂

    This might be a tough sell given the vast free opportunities to express thoughts freely.
    You have to be very dedicated to spend money on something that is mostly free anywhere else.

  2. Benefits: Revenue for Griff. Disadvantages: Creates a class system among LoGroNo participants through the institution of exclusive content and privileges. The idea seems to go against the democratic and participatory nature of the site. It seems odd that Griff Wigley, always preaching about the free exchange of ideas and the importance of drawing more people into the conversation, should contemplate making the exchange of ideas less free and more exclusive. I, for one, would not become a paying member of LoGroNo, and I would view the site with more suspicion knowing that it had become a forum for closed discussions among its elite members.

  3. Sorry, Griff but I must agree with all that Rob has said above.

    I fully understand your need to feel more concrete remuneration from something you spend so much time on, but your suggested way to go seems to me to be in conflict with your establishing principles.

    On a topic that is hot, you have an on-line chat situation as people with time will respond within a few minutes to each other.

    “Special discounts, deals”at local businesses would require more of your time to sell, and frankly many people, even if they save the coupons, either don’t use them in time or don’t have them with them when they need them.

    Moderated F2F events is something you could do any time and charge admission if you please; but if Norman’s Politics and a Pint is a model, you’ll find it quickly devolving into a social event, no different than any discussion over a beer. More on that topic would suggest a town meeting type model, if broadly inclusive, and then we’d be into the “I don’t sit in the front row at church; nor feel comfortable speaking in public” MO …(that’s modus operandi, not ‘my opinion’ )

    You haven’t hit on a chargeable value yet, IMO…

  4. Griff,
    Welcome to the brave new world of trying to make money on an internet venture.

    Like Anthony, I’d pay a small amount of cash for an LGN app (or site access) that was more friendly for my iPhone. But like the other commenters here, I’m not interested in any exclusive content, and I agree that it would run counter to what LGN is.

    OTOH, you might have better luck with a voluntary support system. There is one web site which I donate money to – simply because I value it, and want it to continue to exist. The primary perks I get in exchange: 1) a lack of ads, and 2) a neat little “Community Supporter” mark on my messages on the message board.

    My main concern with a similar support for LGN is that – if I were to be donating to LGN in a similar manner – I would expect the site to be more ‘public.’ If I were to sponsor the site, I’d want to see something like a (lightly) moderated non-anonymous community forum/messageboard – or perhaps something akin to the “anyone can set up a blog” function that is seen on some political sites.

    Northfield.org technically has a ‘Forum’ that would be the kind of thing I’d hope would be available at LGN, but it’s not actually used by anyone – the last post was in June. It’s possible that an LGN would sit just as idle, but it’s also possible that there are enough people hanging around your site who might be interested in using a non-anonymous messageboard here. You won’t know until you try.

    In short, I think you have tough choices. You can:
    – simply put ads on LGN, and see what kind of money you can generate.
    – offer ‘member perks,’ and potentially undermine the public nature of the site
    – or, you can simply ask for donations. I’m not sure that you can get many donations for the site ass presently constructed, but you might be able to generate donations if you expand the ‘public forum’ services of the site. Of course, that requires more input on your part, and might not generate any donations.

    I don’t see any easy answers.

  5. Peter,

    I think we do offer some things that can’t be gotten elsewhere but your comment has made me realize that I better get to work and enumerate them. So I’ll be sure to do that before we go any further.

    Rob and Kiffi,

    I don’t think charging for content or information services is elitist or exclusive in the negative sense that you’re implying. The Northfield News charges for the newspaper; the Citizens League requires membership for you to get their monthly newsletter and attend some of their events; there are benefits to being a member of the League of Women Voters; and CVEC, Carleton and St. Olaf all charge tuition.

    So if you don’t object to those subscription/membership/fee models, help me understand the difference.

    My intention is to not be elitist or exclusive. I’d just like LG to be able to offer more than we do now but it’s not possible because of the time required.

  6. Griff : I was maybe too general in agreement; I don’t see your suggestions as elitist, as much as just not “value added”.
    I have to think about it more, but surely you have in your broad on-line experience seen many different formats and models…

  7. Patrick,

    I would consider a voluntary membership model like the one you describe. The MPR membership model clearly works. Would it matter to you that LG is not a non-profit?

    I would also consider a “(lightly) moderated non-anonymous community forum/messageboard”, too. I’ve created several of them. They’re time-consuming though, so I’ve been reluctant to do one for LG.

    It’s interesting that you you use the phrase ‘public nature of the site’ to describe LG. Would you apply that phrase to the Nfld News website? Strib? NY Times?

    I tried offering local advertising here earlier this year but it became pretty clear that I would have to get out there and be an ad sales rep in order for it to succeed.

  8. Kiffi, yes, there are a huge number of formats and models being tried.

    One new one that got me thinking about it is PG+, a members-only Web site launched 6 weeks ago by the Pittsburg Post-Gazette:

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09244/994560-96.stm

    Note that they still have a free website.

    At 12:01 this morning, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launched PG+, a members-only Web site with interactive features and exclusive content by Post-Gazette staffers above and beyond what the Post-Gazette already provides in its daily print and online versions.

    PG+ will not replace post-gazette.com, which will continue to offer the same breaking news, features and multimedia content as always. Instead, it allows subscribers access to a new stream of exclusive blogs, videos, live chats and behind-the-scenes looks at the news of the day.

    The new site, hosted by a team of PG bloggers, emphasizes user interaction, with commenting throughout the site. Members also will be able to create a social networking profile to keep the conversation going.

    Content is being provided by some of the Post-Gazette’s best-known personalities, including Ed Bouchette, Mackenzie Carpenter, Doug Oster, Reg Henry, Jack Kelly and Gene Collier.

    Longtime Post-Gazette editor/producer Katy Buchanan is the site’s editorial coordinator.

    PG+ members also gain access to special Post-Gazette events, along with deals and discounts for sports, retail and entertainment venues.

  9. Rob- You might have a good point, there, but I’m not sure LGN is really a news source like the Post.

    Griff- You do raise a good point here in how much you want to allow people to take advantage of your time and expertise just to spew out our opinions on current events. How about if I drop off a gift certificate to Just Foods, no strings attached?

    1. John, I don’t think of LG visitors as taking advantage of my “time and expertise.” It’s a labor of fun and love for me.

      I’d like to do a better job of it and do more of it but can’t afford the time since I’m a slave to the billable hour in my consulting work.

      Thanks for the offer of a gift certificate, but I’d rather you wait to see how this membership/donation idea pans out.

  10. Rob, I definitely think we could get away with “charging big fees to special interests to arrange private, special-access encounters with powerful people” here in Northfield.

    My corner office at the Blue Monday would be the perfect spot. 😉

  11. Griff, you wrote:

    It’s interesting that you you use the phrase ‘public nature of the site’ to describe LG. Would you apply that phrase to the Nfld News website? Strib? NY Times?

    Actually, I was referring to “public nature” as one aspect, or aspiration, of the website. The other aspect I would describe as “the place where Griff – and occasionally Tracy and Ross – get to post whatever the heck they feel like saying.”

    If you want to secure sponsorship, there would probably need to be a stronger sense of the former, and (relatively speaking) less of the latter.

    I would consider a voluntary membership model like the one you describe. The MPR membership model clearly works. Would it matter to you that LG is not a non-profit?

    Not in a formal sense. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this site seems to generate no revenue, yet it eats up bandwith, server space, and your time.

    Some websites simply say, “Hey, the server bill’s about due, and I can’t afford the $500 all by myself. If you value this site, could you please make a donation? Thanks!”

    But again, the websites that I donate $$ to in that manner tend to be more of a free-for-all community, where visitors generate a fair bit of the content/exchange. Also, if you were to set up a donation model, you should probably be fairly transparent about what you do with any money that comes in.

  12. Tony and Patrick, I haven’t yet taught myself to create mobile apps.

    But tonight I installed a WordPress mobile app that makes it easy to browse the pages, blog posts, and comments attached to the blog posts.

    Works great on my Google phone. Try it on your iPhones and let me know.

    It’s supposed to work for these touch browers:

    iPhone
    iPod
    Android
    BlackBerry9530
    LG-TU915 Obigo
    LGE VX

    and for these mobile browsers:

    2.0 MMP
    240×320
    400X240
    AvantGo
    BlackBerry
    Blazer
    Cellphone
    Danger
    DoCoMo
    Elaine/3.0
    EudoraWeb
    Googlebot-Mobile
    hiptop
    IEMobile
    KYOCERA/WX310K
    LG/U990
    MIDP-2.
    MMEF20
    MOT-V
    NetFront
    Newt
    Nintendo Wii
    Nitro
    Nokia
    Opera Mini
    Palm
    PlayStation Portable
    portalmmm
    Proxinet
    ProxiNet
    SHARP-TQ-GX10
    SHG-i900
    Small
    SonyEricsson
    Symbian OS
    SymbianOS
    TS21i-10
    UP.Browser
    UP.Link
    Windows CE
    WinWAP
    YahooSeeker/M1A1-R2D2

    1. Griff,
      The mobile version is great (and fast!) for reading your posts – but unfortunately is practically useless for following the public discussions that follow. Any chance that you could add a page to the mobile site that is equivalent to the “Discussion” sidebar?

    2. Patrick, no, that plugin doesn’t give me the option to customize it. I’ll poke around to see if another plugin might offer it.

      But we have an RSS feed for our comments.

      I used Google Reader as my main RSS reader and so it’s easy to scroll through all the most recent LG comments without having to visit the site, whether on a computer or my Google phone.

      And now if I want to reply with my own comment via my Google phone, I just click on the ‘original’ link and it opens up the special mobile page of the LG blog post with the comments attached.

      The only glitch thus far is that the mobile comment feature doesn’t set a cookie, so I have to enter my name and email address manually.

  13. I’m having trouble responding to your suggestion, Griff, because I’m not sure what your (or is it the triumvirate’s) goal for the site is. Looking at the “About” above, doesn’t help as it is mostly a history of NCO. Help me understand what you would tell a stranger who had never looked at the site the “mission” is.

    I send money to MinnPost because I consider it closer to traditional journalism (a la MPR, NYT, etc.) which costs money to produce. Their mission is clear to me and I value it. A fee is not required and I can read it at no charge, just as I can listen to MRP at no charge. Although MinnPost is funded by grants and my little contribution is a drop in the bucket I want to encourage and support it. Ditto, MPR.

    I would send money to Locally Grown, too, if I thought, as I do with MinnPost, the mission were clear and I valued it. I appreciate the current content, and lurk loyally and avidly. However, I don’t always know what I am looking at. Is it journalism? Is it gossip? Is it a thoughtful conversation among really smart people? You obviously spend a lot of time, blood sweat, and perhaps, tears as our host and provocateur. If you have come to feel you need some remuneration for playing this role, I surely understand and am sympathetic. Rather than providing special privileges to members, I’d rather see contributions encouraged and be voluntary.

    As Kiffi says, ads, special discounts, etc., would be an annoying distraction for you. However, if you have to go that way in order to make ends meet, I have no objection. I’ll just ignore them just as I do everywhere else on the internet!

  14. Jane, you’re right, we’ve not been clear about our mission.

    I’ve informally considered our broad mission to be similar to Northfield.org’s, ie, using the internet/online tools to strengthen the civic threads of  the Northfield area.

    We’re part of the civic blogosphere, and focus our blogging and podcasting on A) being opinionated; B) convening civil but opinionated conversations with citizens and community leaders; C) showing the community to itself via photos and video; and D) delivering it all in a way that’s fun and at times irreverent because that keeps it interesting for us and hopefully for our site visitors, as civic engagement should have hefty and regular doses of fun.

    Does that help?

  15. Griff – that does help! It may belabor the obvious, but it is a succinct statement. And, the strategies you’ve enumerated illustrate how, though the mission may be similar, the strategies differ from northfield.org. Why not put the statement and stragegies in the “About” tab, followed by the lively historical narrative and photos?

    The new ideas – moderated real time/on line chats and moderated FTF discussions surely fit into the above mission and strategies as you out lined them. I’d like to see more of the kind of forum we had at the northfield.org Annual Meeting last year. For example, what would you think about Prof. McGill and others participating in a panel to discuss (answer?) the question “What effect is the internet having on democracy?” We’ve talked about the idea on the NCO board.

    I stand by my hope that if the blog needs to be funded, it be an open, and if you want, “lightly solicited” membership, along with ads, if you want to scare them up.

    1. Jane, I’ve updated our About page with the mission blurb I wrote above,  as per your suggestion. Thanks for the nudge!

      You and others here (and some accosting me at my corner office at the GBM) have convinced me that we should abandon the idea of special features/access for paid members.

      As for a Pressville F2F forum, it sounds like a great idea. Let me know if I can help.

  16. MPR splash page  MPR member drive banner
    MPR is in the middle of one of their membership drives.  They currently have a ‘splash’ page that displays, prompting visitors to become members. And they put a membership drive banner at the top of the content with a gauge/thermometer gizmo on it to show progress towards the goal.

    I could see doing something similar during a LG membership drive but I would make it so that people who are members/have donated would NOT see the splash page or any other nagging prompts to join. I’m a sustaining MPR member and it bugs me a little to have to see the membership drive ads on their website. It’s hard enough putting up with the on-air “1-800-227…”

    1. I’ve turned off public radio for the week – just so I won’t have to wake up to the interminable declarations of “It’s a heck of a deal!!!”

  17. I find the broadcast pitches so annoying that I too, have turned off my radio, Patrick. I’m getting used to the withdrawal symptoms.

  18. Some of this depends on the fee to be charged, if one would be charged. Can you give us a monetary range of possibilities?

    1. David, what’s your take on the tone of their fundraising letter?  This stood out:

      We’re not in the habit of making idle threats and this isn’t one. Either we meet our fundraising goal of $75,000 over the next three weeks or we’ll be forced to drastically curtail the operation of our website. It’s near the end of our year and the wolves are gathering at the door.

    2. Griff, I’m not sure I would use their tone. Some of the writers for that blog have a big following (sometimes deserved). Most are known for a no holds barred style so the letter was kind of playing off that style (and they probably need the money).

  19. How about a system based on the Mega Bus pricing scheme. Is that what it’s called? Mega Bus? City to city transit on a first come lowest rate basis. That is: sign up today for the Chicago Minneapolis run for January 15, 2010, and you’re likely to get your seat for $1.00. Ten days later, if there are still seats available, the cost increases, say $16 bucks. If you rush down at the last minute on January 14, it’s likely to be $40, or … whatever?

    How’d that work here?

    First five to respond to a new blog, pay $1.00 – the next ten in, $3.00 – Initial comments numder 16 and later are $5.00 each! Second shots from the same person, cost one and a half their initial rate. Thirds are Triple … and so forth.

    Wow. john george and kiffi and david L .. bigbucks, and … well, WOW! Costly! And, Griff goes to the Caribbean! Eats bar-b-q pig! Poi, grass-skirts … or is that the South Pacific?

    Anyway, maybe good guys like me get scholarships. You could also buy in advance. Sort of a punch card. Ten shot for twenty bucks. Use them all on one thread, or spread them around, but they’re good anytime.

    One clear advantage … limits comments … especially repetitive ones.

    Or maybe, charge by the word. Naw, that won’t work.

    I got it! How about only, one-word remarks? Call it Grafitt-E !

    1. Well, Victor, if Griff doesn’t have a fit over that, ‘e should. Sorry, I just couldn’t pass up that material- GriffitE! I love it!

    2. Victor, I’m not sure paying for comments is a good idea but this reminded me that there are some tools out there to both limit the length of a comment as well as the frequency of comments. I’ll investigate!

  20. As I think about this whole thing, a blog is probably not a lot different than the old gentlemans’ club. Members paid an annual fee to sit around a room, smoke cigars, drink brandy and discuss current issues. Now we can do the same thing without the benefit of the cigars, putting up with someone’s aftershave and participate on our own time schedule. Perhaps freedom of speech is actually worth something. At least LGN is not a GOLF club.

    1. Griff- E-gads! It seems community leaders chime in here as they have time and see fit. I think they know they are all welcome to comment. Perhaps they feel constraints to express opinions in a setting like this as there can be ramifications of these opinions because of their official position in the city. I have no official influence, so I can use this as a source of information for/expression of my views. See the difference?

    2. John, most community leaders are either too wary or too busy to chime in here informally.

      So there needs to be some structure to their participation, eg, a pre-selected topic, a fixed time commitment, well-moderated, etc.

    3. Griff- I realize I didn’t answer your question as to how valuable it would be to me to have regularly scheduled discussions with community leaders. I guess I’m not sure how to evaluate that. If I really wanted to speak directly with anyone in the city government, I could make an appointment with them on my own. The one plus about being in a discussion like LGN is that I many times pick up on an aspect of an issue from a participant’s post that I would not be aware of in any other medium. There is a certain synergy that comes out of involvement here. I don’t know how to put a monetary value on that, though.

    4. John, yes, a public forum (online or F2F) with a community leader offers different advantages over a 1-to-1 with that leader, and vice versa.

      I use the phrase “community leader” in a purposely broad way. It’s not just elected or appointed officials. It could also include:

      • public employees in a leadership role (principals, managers, administrators, etc).
      • non profit executives and board members
      • association leaders
      • business leaders
      • church leaders
      • community organizers
      • project/task force leaders
      • etc.

      Others in the community who might not be leaders in the usual sense but who nonetheless might be influential in matters of public affairs:

      • book authors
      • teachers/professors
      • helping professionals
      • and that catch-all category, consultants!

      Hope that helps!

    5. Griff- I define community leaders the same way you do here, so we are on the same page. I still am not sure how to put a monetary value on it, though.

  21. It seems to me that the people who contribute regularly to the discussions on LoGroNo already know how to contact and engage local leaders, and make their voices heard in a variety of settings.  I don’t think you should be offering exclusive content and opportunities for those people.  You should first be reaching out to those whose voices aren’t heard.  I might be willing to contribute if you really found a way to engage the community as a whole.

    1. Rob, it wouldn’t be all that different than when the League of Women Voters schedules a forum at the library meeting room for an hour with a panel on some issue.  You could make the same argument that the folks who show up for those tend to “already know how to contact and engage local leaders.”

      So we’d be trying to engage people who find it hard to make those F2F meetings, prefer to do it online, have a fear of public speaking, etc.  And make it available to a lot more people than can fit in the library meeting room.

      But your point about engaging other people whose voices are not typically heard here is a good one, ie, more seniors, more youth, more Latinos, more working class folks,  etc.

      I could see us attempting to do that.  We might need to team up with a local foundation or non-profit to get it going but even without that, having a revenue stream from an ever-growing group of members would help.

    2. This has given me a brilliant idea, Griff.  What if we put together a non-profit organization dedicated to using the potential of the internet to strengthen the fabric of our community.  We could call it something like Northfield Citizens Online.  I bet we could get Tracy on board, and maybe Bruce Morlan and some other LoGroNo regulars.  It could be the beginning of something great.

    3. Rob, you’ve been sarcastic towards me a few times in the past week. I don’t get what it’s about so how about we meet for coffee or a beer and see if we can resolve it? Let’s set it up via private email.

  22. MPR’s Midmorning host Kerri Miller has a book club that people can become part of if they become MPR members at the $50/month level. (Note: this is different than the Talking Volumes series).

    Throughout the year, Kerri will select six books that are moving, inspiring, and changing the world we live in, and we’ll send them to you. In addition, you’ll be invited to online chats and intimate live events that will bring you closer to the authors you’re reading.

    Does this constitute the same kind of elitism that some of you have been concerned about re: a LG membership option with exclusive benefits for members? Does it “undermine the public nature” of MPR?

  23. I’m back to thinking about a LG membership model.

    • I’m still thinking that it’s best to keep all content open to everyone.
    • I prefer a revenue model that charges an ongoing monthly or annual membership fee. This would seem to make it easier to: A) approximately match the number of hours worked each month to the amount of revenue generated each month; and B) conduct a membership campaign in which certain new features/services would be added if we get X new members
    • I think we can turn off advertising for anyone who is a paying member and logged in with a username and password. Display ads would be promotion-type nagging to become members, though we also might want to display other types of ads, eg, Google AdSense

    I have a new idea as a benefit for becoming a member, one that doesn’t operate on the ‘exclusive content/access’ model.

    Members would be able to get to publish content to a Membership Sideblog. Members could blog about Northfield-related issues, promote Northfield-related events or causes, and, if based locally, promote products and services.

    Sideblog posts can contain whatever a normal blog post contains, including links, images, photos, slideshows, videos, etc. Comments can be attached, too.

    Blog posts that we deem particularly interesting could be promoted to the main LG blog, just like we do now for Guest Bloggers.

    See the lower right sidebar for the sample Membership Sideblog and let me know what you think.

  24. Hi Griff,

    I don’t see the Membership Sideblog in the lower right sidebar.  I do see a Forum in the uppermost row, but it doesn’t seem to be active yet.

    I’m concerned that you’re going the opposite way from what many of the comments on this page suggest.  The Membership Sideblog, based on your description,  seems to be a place for paid members to post.  Instead,  several people gave you the same comment: they want to see an area where ANYONE can post, and they’d be more willing to to support LG financially if this were possible (and highlighted on the homepage, I assume, so that it was actually active).

    I too favor more freedom of speech so that more members of the community might feel comfortable speaking online, and I’d be willing to pay for it.  Specifically, I would want a portion of the website that:

    -was highly visible from the homepage

    -was entirely open and unmoderated (ie no censorship; people could complain to one another if there were problems)

    -included posts that were automatically added to the regular LG right sidebar if a certain comment threshold was reached, to make them even more visible

    -was included in the LG search schema

    I do also like the idea of moderated discussions with local leaders, but I think such discussions would need to be open to all.  So basically I guess I’m voting for an MPR-like process of voluntary subscriptions for a great product.

    My big concern, though, is the size of the community.  MPR succeeds with this because they’re pulling from a big set of listeners.  I worry that any subscription option within Northfield would be limited by the size of the town.

    Another concern I have with the site (just to voice a problem that maybe you’d consider tackling) is the huge volume of comments.  In one way, this is GREAT since people are interested and interactive.  However, pages very quickly get to the point where I can’t consider reading everything to get caught up, and therefore I don’t bother posting.  I think this is a big barrier between the regular posters and those lurkers who just aren’t on every day (or even every hour).  I’d love it if you can think of some way to fix that – I don’t have any ideas, just throwing it out there.

  25. Felicity, the forum is not active and I may decide to not activate it at all.

    The Sideblog demo is on the right sidebar, below where the listing of comments and commenters are. It’s not a link!

  26. Felicity, I wasn’t proposing limiting anyone’s access to content or to participate in a comment or chat thread.  I was just proposing to give members the privilege of ‘promoting’ whatever they wanted (within reason) via a post to relatively prominent sideblog: an issue, an event, a cause, a business, an item for sale, etc.

    Allowing people to create blog posts adds considerably to the editorial workload if one plans to maintain a higher level of quality, so restricting it to paid members is one way to manage it. That’s partially why MPR requires a $50/month membership level for the Midmorning book club!

    We have enough traffic to test something like this: 8,000+ people per month visit the site, so no need to worry about a big enough area to draw from.

    As for volume of comments, it can be tough to keep tabs on 1,000 comments per month if you’re using the right sidebar only.  It’s way easier if you use an RSS reader like Google Reader and even better if you use one that allows you to sort the comments by topic in order, like Mozilla Thunderbird. Have you tried that approach?

  27. I’ve gotten confirmation from the publisher of our ad software module that there’s a way to restrict ads from being displayed for anyone who’s logged into WordPress. Yay!

    This means that we could run an MPR-style membership week, plastering banner ads all over the place and only non-members would be annoyed by them. 😉

  28. Felicity, as for more ‘freedom of speech for more people,’ I think the sideblog approach would address some of your wishes.  Our standards would be way more lax than we currently have for Guest Bloggers.  But it wouldn’t be anonymous and the civility rules would still apply for conversation.

    But as I wrote above, we could promote any sideblog posts to the main LG blog if we deemed them worthy… whatever that means. I like your idea of allowing our community of users to rate the posts as one way of determining whether they get featured.

  29. Felicity, thanks so much for your input/feedback. It really helps me to think this stuff through.

    And FYI, I’m experimenting with a rating system for comments and posts. And I’m trying a new Search tool that’s supposed to search comments and posts.

  30. I’m thinking of having three membership levels:

    • Basic: $3/month or $36/year:

      an ad-free experience (there will be Google Adsense contextual ads and membership promotion banner ads for non-members) and the ability to submit non-promotional posts to the sideblog
    • Premium: $5/month or $60/year:

      same as Basic, plus the ability to submit TWO promotional posts to the sideblog/month
    • Premium Plus: $10/month or $120/year:

      same as Basic, plus the ability to submit FOUR promotional posts to the sideblog/month

    Let me what you think the pros and cons of this might be.

    1. Griff- Sounds good to me. I like the idea of different levels of promotional posts. I just need to know what you mean by a “promotional post.” I scanned back through the comments, but I didn’t perceive what they are. Must have misssed something.

  31. John, I mentioned “promoting” generically in #31 but it would probably help if I used a different word. I’m referring to PR/advertising, for example, a post that alerts people to a product or service that you’re selling, or an event you’d like people to attend, or a cause that you’d like people to be aware of or donate to, etc.

    All those would be distinctly different from an issue-related post “I’d like to talk about last night’s School Board meeting because…” or an information-request “Anyone know what coffeehouses are open on Thanksgiving?”

    Does that help?

  32. I am still waiting for a Northfield based web-site that has a “portal” type framework, with news and promotions on the homepage, and that individual small businesses can hook in sub-portals.

    This would allow non-technical small business owners a method to promote themselves on the web, and to have a unified co-marketing focus.

    Think the news of LoGroNo, the calendaring of NEG, and a side bar of all the businesses partipating on the left, with small advertisements on the right nav.

    Users could provide thier e-mail addresses and get an e-mail every so often (Digest of new promotions and postings).

    There could be some type of search engine, so you could type in the product your looking for, and it would come back with where to find it in town, so you could “shop local”.

    Restaurants could post specials, etc.

    It would be a way to aggregate the local businesses into one unified web presence, for very low cost to each business.

    Just a thought.

    1. you could call it:
      shoplocal.locallygrownnorthfield.org

      then you could use it as a method to generate both traffic and funding to locallygrown. You could toss in a small radio ad during your show and do live pod-casts from local businesses.

      You could do streaming media profiles of each business. You could do a live webcast of the winter walk.

      There are many cool things that could be done with this. It would take some time however.

    2. Re: 37.2.

      I don’t think so Griff. The Chamber is membership based, so they would only be looking toward its members. Northfield.org is non-profit. This would need to be a different model…

  33. Patrick Enders commented:

    “I’m a bit confused by your last post. Are you saying is that these topics are not forbidden – if someone has paid in order to be able to bring them up?”

    Patrick, yep, that’s what I’m saying. Sandbox capitalism rocks, baby!  As I wrote back in October (#27 above), it’s kind of like the MPR Kerri Miller book club model which, if you become a $50/month member, you get to speak up at her online chats and f2f gatherings. 

    But I bet if you joined and kept trying to comment about how you object to the Strib’s position on a new Vikings stadium, even when the book being discussed that night was about food, sex, spirituality or whatever, she’d have that big brute Gary Eichten escort you to the door.

  34. Well Griff, that’s a very clear and honest statement of the rules for your site. Perhaps you should add that to the Guidelines. It might be something along the line of:

    The comments section(s) of our blog are intended solely for discussion of the ideas which we have raised in our initial blog post. If you would like to discuss a different issue, you may purchase a Basic Membership. Basic Membership costs $3/month OR $36/year, and it allows you the privilege to bring up your own issues for discussion in our sidebar blog.

    Personally, I’m generally unwilling to buy a right to speech. However, I would be happy to make a financial contribution to support a forum for (relatively) free speech.

    Going back to the example of the conversation that you deleted:
    Kiffi’s questions raised a topic of local interest, inasmuch as both Tracy and Stephanie cared to discuss it as well. If you opened up the ability for any member of the community to write a “guest blog,” then it would be easy to say, “Kiffi, that point isn’t directly relevant to the topic at hand. Perhaps you could write a blog post that could start a separate conversation on that topic?”

    That’s a kind of forum which I would be happy to financially support.

  35. Griff: It is a fact that if you look back through the Mary Rossing/podcast thread you will see that the road diverged into various sidepaths related to communication: the Chamber Forum, the Safety Center, just to name two.

    These threads often end up in a different ‘country’ from where they began .

    The example of abortion, which you noted appeared in virtually every thread for a while, was not excised when the subsequent conversation followed that path.

    Somehow, I fail … as you have so often have pointed out… to see how it is fair to allow one diversion to another part of the subject of ‘communication’ … and not another. You have often said that it’s because it’s “your sandbox”.
    I fully agree it’s your sandbox; I simply think the selectivity of the distinctions you make are an example of what is generally known as ‘double standards’, and that is not ‘fair’ regardless of whether one is a member or not.

    Also, I do not find your Kerry Miller example parallel; she can’t edit the ‘tape’ in a live show.

Leave a Reply