Web portal idea loses momentum with CHCA

Updated, corrected story, with comments from Mel Taylor.

 The idea of the Chestnut Hill Community Association building a beefed-up Web portal for neighborhood news and advertising now seems to fading.

At a meeting of the CHCA executive committee Thursday night, co-chair Brien Tilley saida consultant working on the initiative is losing interest.

The consultant, Mel Taylor, had been slated to present his report on how the association, and its newspaper, the Chestnut Hill Local, could maximize online revenue.

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“It appears that Mel will not be making the presentation,” Tilley said, but added that he would reach out to him and attempt to change his mind.

Tilley said Taylor had worked through the summer to develop the idea, but a lack of communication with board members had left a sour taste in his mouth.

With budget issues and distractions with membership campaigns and other events, the CHCA has put the web portal on the back burner.

“The board may not be interested in building a full-fledged portal,” Tilley said.

Taylor, contacted Friday, said he has delivered a report to the CHCA which can be discussed at the next association meeting on Sept. 22. He said he’d fulfilled his $3,000 consulting contract, and now says that he has arrived at a “pause” and was waiting for the CHCA to make the next move.

In his research, Taylor examined the work of competitors in the area such as AOL Patch, WHYY’s Newsworks, and Weaver’s Way Co-op. With these competitors in the market, the Local, in Taylor’s opinion, will have to reinvent itself if it wants to survive in the online and print worlds.

“A lot of papers will have to revamp their business model and give current employees new training,” Taylor said by phone on Friday morning.

Taylor recommended that the person in charge of the web portal will have to be both business savvy and have a genuine interest in journalism.

“They will need to balance journalism with profitability,” Taylor said.

Taylor added that problems with gaining revenue online are not unique to small community papers such as the Local.

“The Local is having the same issues as philly.com; size doesn’t matter!” Taylor said.

In other association news, Celeste Hardester started her duties as the community manager for the CHCA on Tuesday and has been spending a lot of time familiarizing herself with all things Chestnut Hill.

Hardester joined the Executive Committee for its monthly meeting at Town Hall.

“I’m definitely in learning mode here,” Hardester said with a smile.

CHCA President Jane Piotrowski kicked off the short meeting by talking about preparations for the Holiday House Tour on Dec. 3. People will have the opportunity to tour lavishly decorated homes in their community.

Four homes have been identified for the tour, and a fifth is needed. Piotrowski hopes to find someone to head up planning for the event. A special meeting on the house tour will be held on  Sept. 19.

An earlier version of this story misstated the date for the CHCA house tour meeting. NewsWorks regrets the error.

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