A Tip for Business Owners Navigating in a “Jobless Recovery”

The economy is sending mixed signals — which at least is an improvement over just a few months ago.  Newsweek reports today that “the Fed has become both more optimistic and more pessimistic,” with GNP expected to recover slightly more quickly than previously expected, even while unemployment creeps slightly higher.  The term “jobless recovery” is being attributed to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, although the term actually was floated by a Senate Republican in a private discussion, and Bernanke responded only that “it could be.”

The bottom line is, whatever you have left in your retirement fund may start growing again, but if you’re looking for a job you’re still hosed.

The irony, of course, is that job creation depends on business confidence, which depends on economic growth, which in the long run depends on… higher employment levels.

will_write_for_foodSo for all you business owners looking to implement plans you’ve had on hold, if you’re still understandably wary of taking on new headcount, I have a solution:  Hire an independent consultant on a contract basis.

Contracting with a consultant is a much smaller commitment than hiring an employee, and your dollars will go further.  An independent consultant will know that he or she has to hit the ground running, so you can get a faster payoff on your project.

Huge consulting firms often use a senior partner to convince you to sign a contract, then assign twenty-somethings to do the actual work.  But with an independent consultant, the person you seal the deal with will be doing the actual work.  So don’t be put off by the fact that the independent consultant may be a little older — a greybeard, so to speak. You’re not buying all those years of experience, you’re just renting them.

This message is brought to you as a public service by KirkPetersen.net LLC.

(Disclosure: Photo is a composite — NOT created by the Web Goddess, who has actual Photoshop skills)

It Turns Out Today Is My Blogiversary


It must have been embedded in the recesses of my memory, because something just made me check the archives.  It was one year ago today that I made my first substantive post on this blog.  (The first of a handful of frivolous posts was more than five years ago.)

I led with a snarky prediction that presidential candidate Barack Obama “some day could become an important senator.”  That turned out to be wrong — he went straight from first-term senator to president.  But other than that I think the first post holds up reasonably well.

I would be honored if you read the whole thing, but since most people don’t click links, I’ll paste the concluding paragraph here:

So I still prefer McCain as commander-in-chief, but I take comfort in the overwhelming evidence that Obama is a politician. Politicians know how to maneuver around unwise campaign promises, and how to avoid being held hostage by their political base.

May 15 Is Writers Worth Day

statue-money-copyMy friend Lori Widmer is a seasoned writer and blogger, and a tireless advocate of better pay for pixel-stained wretches everywhere.  Five days a week she offers brief, cogent (and well-written!) advice to writers and would-be writers on her blog, Words on the Page.  She has an active commenting community of fellow writers who chime in on a daily basis with encouragement, ideas and horror stories.

Lori has declared that today is “Writers Worth Day,” a day for all of us in the writing “industry” to take a stand against the cheesy job boards and websites that offer, for example, payment of $5 for a well-researched, original blog post of 300 words or more.  “Our careers depend on your turning down bad deals because each time you accept a lousy offer, you validate the existence of people who don’t value writing skills,” she declares, and I say, hear hear!

I quibble a bit with her references to a writing “industry.” I think writing actually is broader and more fundamental than an industry.  Writing is a close cousin to knowledge, and while people speak of “knowledge workers,” I don’t think there’s really a “knowledge industry” — despite 618,000 Google hits for the term.  It seems like an “industry” should be more narrowly defined, and have at least some barriers to entry.

But I certainly agree with her that capable writers should be taken seriously — especially by themselves.  We do add value.  Speaking of which

“The Practice of Civility is Important to Democracy”

gerson3Mad props to Michael Gerson, who in today’s Washington Post brilliantly articulates the concept I was struggling to develop in my recent post, “Don’t Blame Me for Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You for Michael Moore.”  (Disclosure: Gerson did not actually consult with me, and may not have realized he was writing this on my behalf.)

The practice of civility is important to democracy. In his book, Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy, Stephen L. Carter defines civility as “the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together. . . . We should make sacrifices for others not simply because doing so makes social life easier (although it does), but as a signal of respect for our fellow citizens, marking them as full equals, both before the law and before God.”

Respect makes cooperation for the common good possible. Civility acts like grease in the democratic machine; disdain is sand thrown into the gears. But civility is also a direct reflection of our belief in human equality. Even people we vehemently disagree with on the largest issues possess a democratic value equal to our own. Carter argues that this recognition does not preclude “passionate disagreement,” but it does require “civil listening” — and I’d guess it forbids hoping for the death of political opponents.

Read the whole thing.

There’s an old platitude, “I may not agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.”  That rings slightly false — although I would verbally defend your right to disagree with me, if there’s a realistic prospect of death, you’re probably on your own. But surely all of us would be better off if more people treated opposing ideas with some level of respect.

Don’t Blame Me For Rush Limbaugh, I Won’t Blame You For Michael Moore

no_contemptParts of the rightosphere are in high dudgeon about the fact that President Obama, at the annual White House Correspondents Association yuck-fest dinner, laughed at “jokes” told by “comedian” Wanda Sykes about wanting Rush Limbaugh to die of kidney failure.  (Here’s a 78-second video.)

There have been days of arguments at “the Id of Conservatism” —  the Corner, NRO’s group blog — about whether Limbaugh brought it on himself.  And about whether Limbaugh is good or bad for conservatism, about whether or not he’s popular (polls say no, ratings say yes), and about whether he’s ever changed anybody’s mind about anything.

At Best of the Web Today, James Taranto says:

In Obama’s wide grin as Sykes was telling her joke, we saw the smug look of a man who enjoys seeing his critics dehumanized. The president of the United States should be better than this.

The conservative whom other conservatives love to hate, Kathleen Parker, thinks the whole thing is overblown, and sarcastically suggests that we’re “on the verge of appointing a Special Commission on Acceptable Humor.” She says:

Lost in the frenzy is the more important matter of our thin-skinned intolerance and our reflexive lurch to take offense. We might remind ourselves that it’s always the fanatics who can’t take a joke.

I think she’s on to something.  I get awfully tired of having the discussion framed by flame-throwing provocateurs.  When Limbaugh famously was quoted as saying about Obama, “I hope he fails,” a liberal friend asked me how I felt about having Limbaugh speak for the Republican Party.  That’s when I spoke the words from the headline above.

What do Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore have in common?  Well, they’re both much richer and better known than I will ever be, because they’ve each attracted vast followings.  Negativity sells.  Personal attacks work.  Would that it were otherwise.

I can’t get too exercised over Obama laughing at the idea of Limbaugh’s death.  Who among us hasn’t laughed at inappropriate jokes? And Limbaugh, coiner of “feminazis” and other evocative slurs, is an enthusiastic practitioner of the “dehumanization” tactics that Taranto criticizes.

I wish I knew where I’m going with all of this.  The post started as a vehicle for its headline and graphic, but beyond that, I’m not sure what my point is.  Maybe something about the importance of the clash of ideas in a democracy?  Sometimes when I write a blog post, the key conclusion that ties everything together emerges gradually as I think and type.  And sometimes, the only way I can think of to end a post is to drive it off a cliff.

A.T.I.N Has a New Look and a New Address

Farewell, Blogspot

Farewell, Blogspot

After a lot more effort than I expected, I’m pleased to unveil version 2.0 of All That Is Necessary. For those who care about such details, I’ve migrated my original Blogger blog to the WordPress platform, hosted on my personal domain, kirkpetersen.net.

(I’m .net because kirkpetersen.com, no relation, had already been snapped up by a software engineer in Seattle.  Other unrelated Kirk Petersens of note include Austin real estate agent Kirk S. Petersen — hey, that’s my initial, too! — and Kirk P. Petersen, an attorney and estate planner in Eldorado Springs, CO, who based on his Amazon book reviews clearly has more intellectual tastes in his reading than I do.  There’s also Dr. Kirk Petersen, a dentist in southern California; Kirk Petersen, a real estate appraiser in Harlan, IA, a few miles from where both my parents grew up;  and interior designer Kirk Petersen of Olympia, WA.  I wonder if he knows his techie namesake in nearby Seattle?)

And here I thought I had a distinctive name.  But I digress.

There are two main reasons for changing the blog.  First, WordPress is pretty widely acknowledged to be the best and most versatile blogging platform, far more flexible and robust than Blogger. I knew this before I started blogging, and initially tried to set up on WP, but ran into some technical problems that I couldn’t figure out how to solve.  (The company’s promise of the “famous five-minute WordPress installation” is more than just an exaggeration, it’s a falsehood.)  I decided to launch on the much simpler Blogger platform with Blogspot hosting, rather than fight my way through the technical thicket, because I wasn’t completely sure I would even enjoy blogging.  Turns out I do.

Second, I decided to integrate my blog with my marketing site, after initially being leery of doing so.  The leeriness came from the fact that I stake out some fairly pointed political views here, and I don’t want to alienate any potential clients and employers.  I finally reconciled myself to the fact that if you Google my name, the second and third results currently are my marketing site and my blogspot blog, respectively (curse you, top-ranking kirkpetersen.com techie guy!)  Since it’s not really possible to segregate my two online identities completely, I may as well get whatever benefit I can out of integrating them.

They’re not truly integrated yet, as you can see at a glance from the very different look of the marketing site.  That site was lovingly hand-coded by the Web Goddess, and it continues to serve me well.  Interestingly, even though the blog gets more than 50 times as many visitors as the marketing site, the latter ranks above the former, both in the Google search results and in Google’s mysterious PageRank rankings (blog = PR1, marketing site = PR2).

Now that I finally have this launched, maybe I can get back to writing more actual substantive blog posts.  The next phase of the integration will be to pull the marketing content into the WordPress structure, so I can more easily maintain it myself, and to unify the look-and-feel with some nice design touches by the Web Goddess.  (In the meantime, if I can help your company or organization meet your communications needs…)

Sign up for the RSS feed or email delivery if you want to make sure you never miss a post (hi Mom!).  If you signed up for RSS at the old site, it should get forwarded automatically for a couple of weeks, but I think eventually you’ll need to sign up again here.  Thanks for visiting — hope to see you back soon.

So, what do you think of the new site?  Find anything broken?

Seaman Recruit Harry Kirk Petersen, United States Navy

The other day I sat in a restaurant and watched my son become a man.

Harry recently bailed out of college. He was in the third year of a five-year construction management program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, and he hated the place. He had been working at the Philadelphia Housing Authority through Drexel’s co-op program, and he hated that. His grades were good and he fulfilled his modest duties at PHA, but he was bored and sick of it.

Classes had started up again, and he was working part-time while going to school full-time. And he pulled the plug.

Plan A was to enlist in the Marines. This idea was not well received by many in his family and social circle. Consternation ensued. Harry went to live with an uncle and his family in Maryland for several weeks.

Much as he enjoyed getting to know his toddling cousin girls, there wasn’t much for him in Maryland besides a temporary refuge. The weekend before Christmas he came to stay with the Web Goddess and me in Maplewood while he figured out what would be next.

Job prospects were not bright — turns out there’s a recession. He looked for work after the holidays, but found nothing. All the while he kept talking about the service — now he was looking at the Navy Construction Batallions. The Seabees. Plan B.

I live in a deep blue town in a deep blue state. There’s not a great deal of enthusiasm for military service in this corner of New Jersey. When the Web Goddess or I would say Harry is thinking of joining the Navy, well-meaning friends would say things like, “I hope you’re trying to change his mind.”

Well, no.

Over the past several months, in part through this blog, my conservative leanings have been coming out of the closet. In the run-up to the election, I grew used to being the only McCain supporter in virtually every conversation. Nobody has shunned me, at least not that I’ve noticed, but they don’t seem to know how to respond when I say things like, “I continue to support the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.”

The Web Goddess and I canceled each other out on Election Day, but she’s more financially conservative than I am. She’s pulled the levers for more Republicans than I have, although not recently. As is so often is the case, she knew exactly the right thing to say in talking with our friends.

I’m talking here about good Christian people whom I cherish and respect, and I have no interest in the kind of Internet flamewar that includes “words” like dhimmicrat and rethuglican. Here’s the conversation I’m prepared to have with liberal friends: “Do you think the United States needs to HAVE a military? Yes? OK… who should serve?”

I run a consulting business from home, and my business is every bit as robust as the rest of the economy. Harry and I have had plenty of time to bond while seeking work. When he wanted to borrow the car in January for the first of many trips to the recruiting office, he went with my blessing.

Turns out some of that book larnin’ sunk in — he aced the Ass-Vab (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test, and was eligible for any enlisted field in the Navy. He said that when he told the recruiter he was still interested in the Seabees, the recruiter said no — “you’re going nuclear.” Plan C.

Harry signed up for a six-year stint — basically two years of Nuclear Field training on top of a normal four-year enlistment. He’ll get a $21,000 “signing” bonus if he successfully completes nuclear school, and will end up serving either on a nuclear submarine or an aircraft carrier.

He’s a disciplined athlete and body builder — where the hell that comes from I’ll never know — and he’s not deterred by tales of my own long-ago Coast Guard basic training. He’s been working out more to get in better shape — his only frustration has been that because of the timing of his training class, he was not scheduled to report until October.

That changed earlier this week — he got the message that a slot had opened up — could he report on March 10? He told me this with great excitement when I got home from running an errand. He said the downside is that his 21st birthday is March 15, and he’d have to postpone his first legal purchase of a drink.

I sensed a parenting opportunity. “Suck it up, son.”

“Oh yeah, I already said yes.” He took a shower, and I heard him singing Anchors Aweigh.

We went to a restaurant and talked while we ate. He kept getting calls on his cell phone — it turns out that despite what he’d earlier been told, he needs a copy of his transcript when he reports on Tuesday, so he drove to Philadelphia today to get it. He spent the night at his mother’s house the night before and picked up his birth certificate there. In between still-kind-of-a-teenager enthusiasm — “If I get to kill a pirate, my grandchildren will never hear the end of it” — I watched as a mantle of determination and gravitas settled over him.

I don’t want my son in harm’s way any more than any other parent, and I’m glad he’s not going to be in the infantry. As near as I can tell, the Afghan Navy is not terribly formidable, but America’s enemies are resourceful, and have proven they can strike at sea.

Harry knows that, but feels good about his decision to join the Navy. He’ll end up with a college degree and money to pay off his Drexel student loans, and officer candidate school will be an option. If he decides to put in 20 years in the Navy, he can have a pension at the age of 41. In the meantime, he’s got guaranteed stable employment for the next six years, at a modest salary on top of room, board and free medical care.

He also has one other powerful motivation. It’s not the motivation he talks about the most, but it’s the one that came first.

My son is a patriot. He wants to serve his country.

(Photo by the Web Goddess. This post was written earlier this week, and published March 7 with minor changes. In the time-honored military tradition of “hurry up and wait,” Harry’s reporting date has been postponed. The current expectation is that he will report for duty on March 23.)

Step Aside, NY Times — Patch Is Bringing Google Zillions to Hyperlocal Maplewood

I got interested in the hyperlocal Maplewood BlogolopolisTM because the mighty New York Times was wading into the fray (and I happen to know the local Times reporter). But it turns out the Times is only the SECOND-best capitalized hyperlocal effort in Maplewood. The newcomer to watch is something called Patch.com.

I barely noticed Maplewood Patch when it launched in … well, whenever it was. Recently. Their logo clearly says “Beta”, and besides I’m not nearly as well tuned in to the local scene as a lot of my Maplewood neighbors are, so I just wasn’t that interested. I visit the (extremely active) Maplewood Online (MOL) bulletin boards sometimes if I’m looking for a referral for a handyman or whatever, but I never got into the social gestalt of those boards, and I don’t follow local politics. Every time I peeked in, however, I was impressed by how vibrant the community was. And MOL honcho Jamie Ross has always been good about publicizing our events at St. George’s Episcopal Church, where the Web Goddess and I are both very active.

Well, I’m interested now.

Yesterday I wrote mainly about the launch of the NY Times “The Local” site for Maplewood and environs. I noted that Patch.com and the NYT both chose the same three towns for their respective pilots — Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange — and I said something snarky about it being hard to reach somebody who could speak on behalf of Patch.

Today I got a call from Brian Farnham, Editor-in-Chief of … well, I guess of Patch.com, although their About Us page is fuzzy on the name of the entity, referring to “the people behind Patch.” Brian confirmed what I was starting to realize yesterday — that although it looks on the surface as if the New York Times and Patch.com have exactly the same business model for Maplewood, they are in fact closer to being exact opposites.

Brian, who had read my snarky comment, was very gracious and started by apologizing for not getting back to me more promptly. I parried that with an apology for not reaching out sooner.

Brian acknowledged what is obvious once you see the list of more than 20 employees at Patch’s NYC headquarters — Patch has national ambitions. He confirmed that all or virtually all of those 20-plus people are devoted full-time to the Patch.com effort. And yet, the only Patch.com sites currently in existence are the ones for Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn. (Each of the three towns also has a local Patch editor, supported by college students and freelancers.)

Brian wouldn’t let himself be pinned down about a timeframe for expansion, and he wouldn’t give me an estimate for the company’s monthly “burn rate” (a dot-com-bubble term that seems so last-century now). But the company is backed by a Google zillionaire, and they’re making a serious upfront investment.

About half those 20 people are fairly junior, but at the VP and Director level, everybody has serious online and/or media credentials. Brian, for example, is a former Editor-in-Chief of Time Out New York, and his fellow poobahs include seasoned Harvard MBAs and executives from non-trivial media ventures (Gannett, CBS, etc.) None of the senior people are working for just stock options and food.

The New York Times, OTOH, is taking its first tentative steps into the hyperlocal “space.” They’ve assigned one full-time reporter each in New Jersey and Brooklyn — and the paper says even that level of commitment is economically unsustainable in the long run. Maplewood resident Tina Kelley and her Brooklyn colleague at the Times were interviewed today on WNYC Radio, and they both freely acknowledged that the business model may look very different down the road.

Brian considers his company to be in competition with the awkwardly named NY Times “The Local” in this market, but he doesn’t think he’s really in competition with MOL, although obviously there’s some overlap. “I have enormous respect for Jamie Ross and what he’s built” at MOL, Brian said. “I hope people will get to feel less threatened by us — we’re not trying to put anybody out of business. We’re trying to be a news and information hub.”

This rings true to me. Think about Patch’s business model — if they don’t start expanding soon and build a broad base for advertising, even the most patient angel investor will get antsy. Salaries alone have to be costing them six figures every month, and their current revenue from the three initial Patches is either zero or something that rounds to zero. While the current faceoff looks like Googliath vs. Jamie Ross, by the end of 2009 I expect Maplewood Patch will be just one of dozens or even hundreds of local Patches.

MOL has an extremely loyal user base, as I (re)discovered when I posted what one loyalist described (accurately enough) as “your own self-serving advertisement to your blog” on MOL’s “Mostly Maplewood” board, which is only one of more than 20 active MOL boards. 80-plus comments ensued on the thread I had started, and to his credit Jamie not only left the thread posted, he personally took part in the discussion: “BTW, we got over 6,000 visits yesterday!” (Roughly 200 of those visitors clicked the link to my post, a nice boost for my humble blog.)

Patch.com’s business model will either work or it won’t — and if it works, Maplewood will be a tiny part of its traffic. The financially cratering New York Times will either find a business model that works or it will sell the extremely valuable brand to someone else — and either way, the Times‘s Maplewood blog will be a footnote (sorry, Tina, but I suspect you agree).

In any event, I don’t think MOL needs to worry. In fact, once the economy improves, I could envision a very nice payday for Jamie Ross, if he has any interest in having a partner with deep pockets.

Looks Like A.T.I.N. Is Going Hyperlocal For A Little While

I’m going to have a followup post later today about Patch.com and (I hope) the Maplewoodian, but in the meantime I want to call attention to Alan Wolk’s fact-filled post about the NYT launch. I may have gotten my post up sooner yesterday, but he’s done a lot more research. His post starts:

One suggestion for how the newspaper industry can save itself has been for it to go hyperlocal, focusing on individual communities with the sort of local news usually provided by weekly Pennysaver type publications.

Patch Media
, a heavily VC (and Google) funded company, has jumped squarely into this space and, as of today, so has the New York Times. Both efforts are happening right in my hometown. The only problem is, The Times is not doing a very good job of it.

To coin a phrase, read the whole thing. (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually coin that.) Tina Kelley has responded in Alan’s comments.

Maplewood NJ, Pop. 23,000, Now Has Four FIVE Competing Local Websites

(Don’t miss my followup post about the true 800-pound gorilla of the story. Also, I tweaked this post’s headline and added a substantive Update at the end.)

Suddenly the Maplewood hyperlocal web neighborhood is crowded. The mighty NY Times today launched two local websites, each staffed with a full-time, veteran Times reporter. One site is in Brooklyn, the other covers Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn.

Venture capital-backed Patch.com also focuses on its recently launched Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn sites for now, but clearly has bigger ambitions. The company’s About page lists 20 staffers and says “Patch is run by professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities we serve, and is supported by a great team in our New York City headquarters.” The site is largely focused on the snowstorm today, and recently covered an appearance at a local bookstore by former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The well-capitalized newcomers are contending with the original local Maplewood site, Maplewood Online, started by Jamie Ross way back in 1997. Over the years Jamie has branched out and created sister sites for South Orange, Millburn, West Orange, Montclair, Summit and Morristown.

Maplewood Online for years was a one-person show. Jamie told me today that his brother moderates the message boards shared by all of his sites, and he has a friend working for him as well. He did much of the coding for the sites himself, and graphically, the sites have a distinctly 1990s web aesthetic. Jamie also is a standup comedian and local concert organizer, but says MOL and its sister sites are his primary source of income. He’s a 1992 Rutgers graduate, with a technical background, rather than journalism.

The Times’s local site is part of the newspaper giant’s effort to find new revenue streams to bolster its cratering primary business. In the past five years the company’s stock price has plunged from the upper $40s to about $4 per share today, and throughout the country long-time daily newspapers are going out of business or declaring bankruptcy.

Times digital editor Jim Schachter explained the local strategy to Editor and Publisher:

Schachter said the sites will be accessible through an address linked to the Times’ home page, such as www.nytimes.com/fortgreene. They may expand to other communities if successful.

“The mission is to educate the community about how to be citizen journalists and contributors,” he added. “There are ‘place’ blogs everywhere. We have to create a real quality community that figures out the answers to questions on the minds of people in each place.”

But he admits the money-making options are unknown. “There is no conceivable way that a site staffed with a full-time New York Times journalist can pencil out as profitable,” he said. “We are trying to figure out using our people as experimenters if there is a model that combines journalism, technology and advertising that would work.”

The Times’s local New Jersey sites are staffed by Tina Kelley, an acquaintance who lives a few blocks from me in Maplewood. Tina, who can sometimes be spotted around town knitting at local events (how’s that for a hyperlocal bloggish touch?), has been on the Times staff for nearly a decade — the nearby picture is from the Charlie Rose show last year, when she was interviewed about a story she wrote on mysterious bat deaths. (I grabbed that photo before her site launched, where I could get her “official” headshot. But then I’d lose my chance to show up in Google searches for “mysterious bat deaths.”)

The site launched after 5 p.m. today, and Tina’s inaugural lead post explains the concept:

For those wondering why we chose Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange, when there are so many new Web sites and publications on paper here already, it’s very simple, actually: The Times wanted me to launch this experiment in New Jersey, and I live in Maplewood. And I knew the conversation here would be rich, fun and meaningful, because intriguing people live here, and for good reasons.

Jamie Ross’s theory was that the Times and Patch.com both started in the Maplewood region because there already is a booming online community in the area — Jamie has 8,000 registered participants on his message boards, and the flagship site has a frontpage script that currently reads, “There have been 6,927,419 visits to this page since August 20th, 2001.” But Tina said no, it really was just as simple as the fact that this is where she lives.

Tina’s NYT site already has taught me something — there is yet a fourth Maplewood site, called the Maplewoodian. If I were still a real journalist I would work them into the story and try to reach the editor, but I’ve spent far too much time on this already, and I don’t have a night-desk editor to snarl at me for not making a phone call. So all you get is a screenshot:

For a website focusing on the hyperlocal market, it seems remarkably hard to connect with anyone from Patch.com. There is no phone number or email address on the website itself, and I’ve sent out a dozen feelers to local editors and New York staff via Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as using the site’s feedback page. The only NYC phone number listed for Patch Media Corporation turns out to be a lawyer’s voicemail. One of the local staffers eventually contacted me on Twitter and said she would try to find someone to talk with me, but that was the last I heard. Maybe they can weigh in in the comments.

Jamie was in town first, so I’ll let him have the last word. I asked him what he thinks about all the competition, and he said: “I think MOL will survive, but it’s tricky to go up against a company that has billions of dollars.”

Clearly there’s a market for local information on the web — it’s just not clear how to make any money generating it. It’s also not clear to me whether it’s worth my while delving into the local market myself from time to time, as I have today, or if I should just stick to my primary interest in national politics. So this is an experiment — I’d love to get feedback in the comments.

Update: Hey, since when did the venerable News-Record of Maplewood and South Orange start being available online? And why wasn’t I notified?

More seriously, why doesn’t Worrall Community Newspapers Inc. (parent company of the N-R and its sister publications) promote the website on the front page of the print News-Record? All there is now is a nondescript URL — www.localsource.com — sandwiched between the date and the price. Last time I looked at localsource.com it was a mess, and you couldn’t find Maplewood stuff on it. Now, Maplewood.LocalSource.Com seems to have most of the N-R content, and a fair amount of advertising.

So I’ve corrected my headline — there are FIVE hyperlocal sites in the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM.