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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Fort Thomas Matters Year in Review

Happy New Year!

It's been a crazy 12 months for Fort Thomas Matters. We've gone from about 35,000 clicks per month to 75,000 every month. We've gone from a handful of advertisers to an association of over 50 businesses. We've transitioned our articles from purely an online endeavor to the pages of the Fort Thomas Living, which goes to over 4,000 homes and yet, we are striving to be more.

I think the coolest thing about Fort Thomas Matters is that it's not just one thing. It's evolved and it will continue to unfold into new avenues and new opportunities. What started out as one person's views on his city morphed into a news organization because of the abandonment of "old media." A charity component was added. More writers began contributing. Audio visual and podcasting made it's way to a public relations outlet for our local business.

Now Fort Thomas Matters is the go-to place to connect within Fort Thomas. 

I now see Fort Thomas Matters as a community hub. A place where Fort Thomas' residents can come to for direction. A place where neighbors can pose important questions. A place where our businesses can help spread the word of what they are taking on. Or, like on Christmas Eve a few days ago, simply a place to help find a lost dog.

Charlie was found later that night after 76 "shares" on the FortThomasMatters Facebook page
Fort Thomas Matters is not mine. It's ours. It's bigger than the Editor, the writers or the city government. It's no secret that Fort Thomas has not always been the most transparent place as far as disseminating information. We are coming to a tipping point where that is no longer the case. The readers of Fort Thomas Matters are some of the most engaged citizens the city has  and that's a good thing! 

We have worked diligently to build strong relationships with our city employees, our police, the Renaissance department, our general services department, our council and our mayor. Some have embraced us as the liaison to inform Fort Thomas and some have not been as helpful. Over time, our hope is that they see FortThomasMatters as our readers do: a way to stay informed. An informed Fort Thomas is a better Fort Thomas. 

While our mission may be evolving, our pledge to you will remain constant: We will never ask our readers to pay to subscribe for information. Journalism is hard work and our writers continue to put out the best product available to our neighbors.

So with that, a reminder about how to keep getting information you need to be an informed, engaged citizen:

1) SHOP LOCAL! SHOP LOCAL! SHOP LOCAL! Shopping here and telling our advertisers you saw their ad on Fort Thomas Matters is the best thing you can do to help progress our standing. It's obvious it's working as our association of businesses continues to grow, so thank you! Keep that up.

2) USE LOCAL! USE LOCAL! USE LOCAL! Our service oriented businesses especially rely on our neighbors to use them. If you're used to using a non-local business, take some action oriented steps to seek out someone closer.

3) SEND LOCAL! SEND LOCAL! SEND LOCAL! The things that are happening to you would most likely interest your neighbors. Worried about crime? Send us a note. Not happy with the city in some regard? Ask us to help sort it out. Want to recognize an honor? We are happy to spread the word.

Fort Thomas Matters is here for you. We won't change our mission. We are here to stay and we will ALWAYS root for Fort Thomas. We grew up here, we live here now and our aim is to continue making Fort Thomas the best possible place to live. (I wrote more on this subject here, which is pinned at the top of our page).

Let's continue doing it together. 

- Mark

PS: Here are a few changes other local news affiliates are making:

FOX19: To focus our energies on our core digital products, FOX19 is discontinuing our community pages in the middle of January.

That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in community news, events and people. Stories may appear on the regular news pages of or on one of our newscasts.

Scripps: CEO, Rich Boehne, announced in November that WCPO (Channel 9) would be going to a digital subscription model. In February, WCPO's John Matarese did a "Don't Waste Your Money" on the Enquirer's paywall model.

I will say that WCPO "gets" local media and collaboration more than 5, 12, 19 or the vaunted Enquirer though. When we do the original reporting, they give FTM credit which we sincerely appreciate.

We are even going to be apart of their "WCPO Local Media Grid."

WLWT: While Fox19 is going away from community pages, our own Ben Petracco, will take the position as online media Editor. Hopefully you'll start seeing more Fort Thomas coverage on Channel 5 soon. *nudges Ben with elbow.

Enquirer/Community Recorder: This year alone, they changed their print format, charged for online access, and cut their staff (again). They are spread so thin that it's difficult to keep up. In my mind the only way to keep coverage great, while cutting costs is to collaborate with some local sites like FortThomasMatters. 

We'd be perfectly happy with a courtesy link or small mention like other news affiliates give us. Instead, because they look down on new media like we're their little, overachieving brother. They puff up, mimic our coverage like it's their own and pretend like they've never heard of us.

It may seem petty, but we work hard too. Let's work together, y'all. Happy New Year!

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