Keeping it Local, with Community websites!

Always on the lookout for ways to improve New Bern Now, I ran across this interesting video of Paul Studtmann, a Davidson College Professor, interviewing David Boraks. David is the Founder and Publisher of the and

The interview was about David Boraks’ two community websites. The towns are located about 25 minutes north of Charlotte, in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

Watching the video, I realized that I was striving for the same goal as David. He’s lived in Davidson for 20 years, he’s invested in the community so he built a place for people to gather and share information that wouldn’t necessarily make the newspaper.

It was refreshing and inspiring to know that other people have similar beliefs about helping their communities by creating local websites (aka hyperlocal websites).

Community news and information websites are popping up across the country. I believe true hyperlocal websites are owned and operated by people who live in and are passionate about their towns.

Occasionally you will see “aggregator websites” that claim to be local, but basically find and publish content that they did not generate. They may have sales people that cover regional areas, but to me, they are mini search engines. Some are even “blog scrapers”.

David is a seasoned journalist with 35 years experience and knowledge in the field. He created the in 2006 to report very local journalism on the web. His passion grew out of spending a year in Asia and reporting about “everything that was happening around him”. He expanded his local news coverage by developing the

Visiting his websites, it’s obvious that David Boraks has a large and loyal readership.

In the video, David said, “We’re trying to reflect what the community is”. This is very different from traditional journalism. He summarized the difference by stating, “We are writing for our community as opposed to writing about our community”. It’s amazing how two words can make such a difference in how people send and receive information.

That’s the difference between Traditional and Citizen Media Companies.

When he launched the, he was publishing 2 – 3 times a week and now he’s posting 6 – 12 articles a day. This fact speaks volumes as residents are embracing and taking ownership of his efforts.

With all the incoming information, he has to prioritize requests for interviews, what to report on, how to respond, and what he will allow on his websites. He’s a firm believer of being fair and doesn’t allow unnecessary negative comments.

If you’re planning on starting a community website, you may consider David’s view, “Ask yourself why you started your site: was it to provide high quality and timely local information? Or to provide grousers with a forum?”

The and team reports on: Local news, Health and Fitness, Pets, Real Estate, Sports, Election, Obituaries, Police and Fire, Schools, Worship, Stylephile, Classified,  Movie Schedule and a large spectrum of topics.

David’s story parallels what happened when I created New Bern Now in 2009, as I was constantly interviewing people to find information on a daily basis. Now, I’m in a similar situation. I’m continually receiving leads for stories to cover, articles from businesses and non-profits, and reviewing comments to make sure I don’t allow unfounded negative comments to be published. My policy is to promote, not demote. I won’t publish anything that can ruin someone’s reputation based on opinion. If people want to bash someone or a business, they can find plenty of places that will publish it.

As I’ve written in the past, local residents are the backbone to NBN. Without their input, we wouldn’t have succeeded. Since then, I’ve met people from all walks of life. The only downside to my fun adventures around town; is that it’s very difficult for one person to manage a website with 50,000 plus visitors per month on a daily basis at no charge. It would be wonderful to be able to generate enough revenue to pay someone to help publish the content.

David generates 80-85% of revenue through advertising and has implemented monthly “voluntary subscription payments” from readers. His business model may be the one that actually works for hyperlocal websites. Only time will tell.

Although NBN is virtually online, I’ve found success by publishing the quarterly Ledger. The online edition is available in color with links to websites, but I receive calls from businesses and non-profits for the hardcopies that are distributed throughout the greater New Bern area. We also offer video spotlights on local businesses and non-profit organizations, free radio interviews for non-profits, and online advertising. Surprisingly, the Ledger is the most popular advertising venue.

Perhaps one day, New Bern Now will be able to offer similar reporting as the and provides.

In the meantime, I recommend visiting David Boraks websites as both towns are located in a beautiful area of North Carolina! Take your family for a trip to the Piedmont and go shopping, camping, or enjoy a walk in the woods!

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Wendy Card