Web portal idea has its detractors

A new wrinkle has emerged from the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s ongoing debate surrounding the development of a new web portal for the Northwest neighborhood.

As recently as the end of November, members of the CHCA have discussed the possibility of forming a partnership with the Chestnut Hill Business Association and other local stakeholders as a means of getting a web portal project off the ground.

And while the plan is far from being a done deal, a few details about the way things could potentially work were presented during Thursday night’s CHCA Executive Board meeting.

Community Association’s At-large member Rob Remus, who also heads the Business Association’s Destination Chestnut Hill Online Portal Committee, said the web portal could be operated by the Chestnut Hill Local in conjunction with an online manager who would serve two distinct, but not separate roles.

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The first would be to maintain the portal’s content and structure. The second would be to report and be a member of a new four-member board that would also include a member from the CHCA board, the CHBA board, someone representing the area institutions and someone representing residents.

The site would carry content from the Local, but also be a place to promote businesses or programs neighborhood institutions, like the Chestnut Hill Hospital, are offering

Such a partnership, Remus explained, would help fulfill the project’s original goal: to create an online space where all community interests are fairly represented. But it would also put the portal in a better position to compete with other web-based hyper-local outfits for local and national advertising dollars, he argued.

“The only way we’re going to win is if we come together,” said Remus. He added that staff at the Local and the CHBA have, in principle, expressed interest in a partnership.

If the web portal does get built, both the Chestnut Hill Local and the Business Association would continue to operate their existing websites.

Board members and staff of the CHCA, however, had some concerns.

Treasurer David Mansfield called Remus’ model a recipe for disaster. To get the inside track on securing ad revenues from Chestnut Hill’s businesses and institutions, the web portal should not ally itself with the CHBA, but simply offer them a superior and compelling web site that they’ll want to invest in, he said.

Trying to please everyone, he said, will work against that goal and result in a product that’s dull and uninteresting.

After the meeting, Noreen Spota, CHCA’s administrative coordinator agreed with Mansfield, but added that the portal could potentially compromise the Local’s content if it’s not carefully and evenly managed.

“These people are not necessarily thinking in terms of journalism,” said Spota.

One of the next step’s for the CHCA is to test the waters. Remus said he would like to have a meeting next week with all interested parties to hammer out the details of a potential partnership.”

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