CHCA considers hyperlocal site

For many readers getting your news from newspapers feels like eating day-old bread. For the Chestnut Hill Community Association that’s a problem. Membership and circulation are on the decline for the Chestnut Hill Local, the weekly newspaper published by the CHCA.

A few weeks ago the Local revamped its website amid increasing competition on the web from such new entries as Chestnut Hill Patch.com, Hill on the Avenue, and NewsWorks.org.

At last week’s CHCA board meeting, committee chair Rob Remus urged the association to be even more aggressive online. In addition to a flashier Local website CHCA is considering whether to build a web portal that would better help connect everyone in Chestnut Hill. A web portal is a one-stop shopping website for local news, events, high school sports, council meetings. This example of Fenceviewer.com was brought up during a board meeting earlier this month.

“We need to understand how we will fit into this,” said Board Member Richard Snowden.

Task force meetings took place between July and October to investigate the logistics of a web portal, and a number of options were laid out.

One option would be for the CHCA to take a backseat and do nothing.

Another option would be for the CHCA to launch its web portal as a solo effort. Remus, however, did not feel confident that the community organization could take on the task alone.

Yet another option would be to find a private investor to help shoulder some of the responsibility. This option could perhaps be a community-wide effort with multiple organizations, including businesses, schools, institutions, and residents pooling together to create an investment group.

The committee favored the exploring latter option and estimated that the board would likely have to spend upwards of $100,000 to support a web portal. Partnerships would have to be formed in order to take on such a task and the job could be completed with up to three employee salaries.

“The business plan that we built would make it self-sustaining within 18 months,” Remus pointed out.

The Board also expressed specific concern over the arrival of AOL’s Patch.com website in Chestnut Hill, which launched Tuesday Nov. 16.

The Chestnut Hill Patch.com editor, present to report on the meeting, received praise from Remus for his attendance when part of the agenda was to discuss the effects of AOL’s Patch in the community.

Remus conceded that AOL would be a competitor, but maintained that the board and its members have a stronger hold on what is news in the community.

A committee has been formed to further discuss the future of online news in Chestnut Hill. It is set to meet Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 7:00 pm. (Meeting has been postponed till Mon, Nov. 29 @ 7:00 pm at the Chestnut Hill Hotel) While the location for the meeting hasn’t been decided, Remus said it would likely be at the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church on Germantown Ave.

We want to know what you think about the CHCA’s idea of a web portal. Would you use it?

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