Over the last few weeks, in meetings closed to the public, the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) has decided to scrap 18 months worth of research and discussions on the development of a web portal and start from scratch.
News that the web portal was dead was a surprise to many board members, who last heard that the portal was being researched by media consultant Mel Taylor. Taylor was hired by the organization to submit a fully detailed report about the current media climate and how the Local would fare against larger organizations such as AOL’s Patch, WHYY’s NewsWorks, etc.
But after Taylor submitted his report to the group, the board decided that they needed to take another approach.
“(The report) wasn’t as robust as we were hoping for,” said board member Stephanie Chomentowski.
Beefing up the Chestnut Hill Local website
Chestnut Hill Local Associate Publisher Larry Hochberger and editor Pete Mazzaccaro used the opportunity to present their ideas on how the newspaper’s website could be updated to fully engage the community.
Hochberger and Mazzaccaro divided their plans into three parts; the desire to increase the number of web visitors and individual page views; keeping those readers engaged for longer than the current average of two stories; and the need to attract more advertising revenue, and to divide those ads for placement into sections appropriate for their content to ensure optimal returns.
In order to update ChestnutHillLocal.com to meet their needs in a competitive online news environment, Hochberger and Mazzaccaro submitted a report requesting $7,000 to update the website of the community newspaper. A portion of the money would go to the hiring of a developer who would modify the site to allow for more viewer interaction, including a more robust calendar and directory where readers would be able to submit information on their own.
A few board members thought that the latter was a little vague and that a more concise report would be needed in order for the board to vote either way on the matter. The hiring of a developer, however, was deemed imperative in moving forward.
The board approved the motion, allowing the Local to make the first step in hiring a web developer to get them started.
“These are baby steps – but a step in the right direction,” Hochberger said.
The Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) also got an update on its overall fiscal health.
With the help of an anonymous generous donor in the community, the CHCA was given a boost in the form of $40,000. Before this boost, the community group was putting more pressure on their events as a means of revenue.
Although the CHCA is on firm ground financially, the group realistically estimated a loss in membership based on trends.
“Membership has leveled off,” Chestnut Hill Community Association President Jane Piotrowski said.
CHCA also makes money by holding periodic fundraising events, such as this December’s Holiday House Tour, which is expected to bring in $28,000 in revenue.
It takes money to make money. The CHCA says it will pay $6,500 in membership expenses for the next fiscal year. This will cover the cost of newsletters and gift baskets the organization compiles in an effort to entice new members.
This story was revised 10/31/11 3:12 p.m. to show that the CHCA has a surplus, not a deficit, for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which runs from April 1 – March 31.