Friday, November 12, 2010

All Richardson, All The Time

Richardson Times

How often do you drive by a strip shopping center and wonder how long some new business or other will last? You know, the new knickknacks-and-more store, or the 50-flavors-of-popcorn store or the cake decorating store? A year? Six months? You wish the owner the best of luck, but you wouldn't bet on the business overcoming the high mortality rate of small businesses.

After the jump, a new business venture that has me figuring the odds again.

One of the advantages of a Web-based business is the low barrier to entry. The costs of setting up a website are trivial. And if your product is information, not widgets or services, you can be up and going in a day, literally. Sometimes it looks like it.

That brings me to the Richardson Times, a new website inspired by the lack of a local newspaper in Richardson. The website pans the effort at local news in The Dallas Morning News as "a couple of guys blogging about the news, along with the Neighborhood Go [sic] section. Richardson now has nothing but little magazines with lovely photos of Eagle Scouts and quilting bee champs." The new website promises to "bring you the important news about our community." That's a laudable goal, but the gratuitous slap at the Boy Scouts is a strange way to introduce yourself to a small community.

I wish the venture the best of luck. Seriously. But I would have recommended that they hold back until they had a more professional product before going live. The choice of a Flash-based website from ("Create Your FREE Flash Website ... No programming") is particularly unfortunate. Articles aren't dated. Authors aren't identified. Articles aren't linkable. Or cut-and-pasteable. No comments. No RSS. Annoying (for me) page dissolves as you navigate from section to section.

The content looks slapped together, too. In the "Top Stories" section, there's an article on the RISD bond proposal that looks like a simple rewrite of what's on the RISD's own website; a story about a retired woman becoming something called a "Holistic Health Coach;" and a warning for homeowners to be on the lookout for burglars pretending to be door-to-door solicitors, which also looks like a simple rewrite of a Richardson Police Department public service announcement.

The "Community" section has tabs only for the Reservation and J.J. Pearce HOAs, J.J. Pearce High School and Mohawk Elementary. You'd think that with the motto, "All Richardson, All The Time," they'd at least have designed placeholders for the rest of Richardson. By the way, that Community page features a full page photo of "Daisy Scouts Visit the Fire House". It's a lovely photo.

There's no "About" page explaining just who or what is behind the effort or how to contact him (her, them, whatever). The editorial page has an article by Darrell Day who explains his desire for a local newspaper. He doesn't say so, but I assume he's the owner, publisher, editor, reporter and webmaster. The editorial says "we" a lot but only Darrell Day's smiling face is shown at the top of the page. There's one ad in the classified section, but no indication whether this is a for-profit venture.

There is one hidden gem. That's the "Talking Back" article by Destiny DeLaRosa. She's always worth searching out and reading. In her debut article (sorry I can't link to it) for Richardson Times, she goes out on a limb getting her knickers in a wad complaining about people who don't like seeing ethnically offensive neighborhood names in Richardson, but I'm sure she'll get her groove back in future articles. By the way, you do have to search for her article, as the "Talking Back" section for some reason is buried in the "Community" section, not in the "Editorial" section, where I expected to find it.

Anyway, best of luck to the new venture. It's a start. They (he, she, it) will get the kinks out and the site will grow. Or not. I advise everyone to check it out. Soon.

For a look at some other more or less similar efforts, check out:

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