Happy Birthday to LISNews!
What follows are some thoughts on LISNews, now 2 years old. In the 2 years since I started the ball rolling, LISNews has grown and blossomed into a vibrant and fun little site. I thought I would compile some thoughts and ideas on the past, present and future of the site, as I see it. It’s up to you all to show me what’s good and what’s bad. More importantly, it’s up to you to tell me if what we are doing is right or wrong, good or bad.
How do we grow, keep ahead and change over the next 2 years? How can we encourage more users, more visitors, and get more authors? How do I stop paying for this damn thing, and how can I stop it from sucking up all my time?
So it’s been 2 long years so I got LISNews off the ground now. So far, so good. The site is busier than ever, which I think reflects the time and work all the authors put in. Way back when I was more or less alone, and it was mostly me posting, the site wasn’t so great. My thoughts, opinions and views on the news aren’t so important. If I wanted to do that I would’ve copied the other blogs out there. My goal has always been to get to know others through what they post to the site, and get to know what people are interested in based on what they read. It has been to bring in the thoughts, opinions, and biases of others, to bring balance and breadth to the news we highlight. I think now we are reaching that point. The other authors are what really make LISNews work so well. Another important factor in our success has been the great stories submitted by people who find the time to just send a story along. Bob Cox, Charles Davis, Lee Hadden, Jen from SLU and many others have really gone out of their way to show us what we are missing. I greatly appreciate the time people spend on LISNews.
I think the site really came into it’s own this year. We were featured in LJ and AL, and a couple of other J’s, we are linked to by 600+ sites, and most importantly I was joined by a number of new authors that work together to really make LISNews what it is.
So what about next year, or the one after that?
At some point in the very near future I need to do one of 2 things. Find someone to host LISNews for free, or, move it to our own server (I know, you’ve heard this for months now). I am still afraid of moving to a dedicated server for 3 reasons. Cost, security and time. I’m afraid I don’t have them money or the time to keep it running or the expertise to keep the box secure. I will work something out soon though.
I’d like to get a style guide written, something that Ryan brought up. Now, those of you who know my writing know this will be a big problem for me, even if I am the one to write it, I’m not good at none of that English stuff or speling not good neither. I think a style guide would give us some style, not to make every post a boring cookie-cutter-copy of every other post, but to bring some sort of consistence to the stories, and keep my crappy grammar and spelling in check, if that’s possible.
Closely related I’d like to visit the issue of selection criteria. Not that I’d ever want say what anyone else posts, but mainly to see what people are interested in, and focus on those areas a bit more. Maybe we are missing something that would really be useful. I’d like to see more scholarly stuff work it’s way in, like Rory always recommends, but at the same time, I think one of our strengths is our popular press coverage. The breadth of stories we cover is great, and continues to expand thanks to submissions we receive in increasing numbers.
I’d love to get more original stuff up, perhaps move to having some sort of peer reviewed journal system set up. Make it more scholarly. Not so much like first Monday, but to give people a place to share and publish their work, that allows them to maintain copyright and do it all for free. I’d also like to get more interviews going, something I’ve let slip lately.
Recruiting has been a big pain for me, and I wish I could come up with some bright ideas in this area. Our current crew is absolutely top notch. I can’t say enough nice things about everyone now. We get incredible breadth and depth to the stories, and everyone brings in their own views and style to the site. But… I can’t help think just a few more people would really make things more enjoyable for everyone (and mean less work for all of us). If we can round up enough people, we may even begin to specialize in stuff, like Ben now does the poll, we may have reporters working the beat in certain areas. I’d especially like to get more, well, make that any, people from Outside the US. If you’ve bothered to read this far, and you aren’t in America, please consider joining us. I’d also love to meet more of the people involved in the site in person. So far I’ve met Rory, and Thomas, and will meet Steven soon, as we presenting next year. Some day I’d really love to say hi to everyone.
One big improvement would be a better search engine. I really need to do some research on that, our current search function really stinks. Now that I think about it, there are about a million things I need to reprogram around the site, to be honest with you, the search engine is just one of many. The backend code needs some work, and there is a half finished front end sitting somewhere you may remember from almost a year ago.
Perhaps exploring the idea of some sort of co branding, and using the RSS/XML feed could open new doors for us.
Checking old links. I shudder to think about the number of dead links around here. I do not believe this is possible, nor even worth trying to keep up on. Links to outside sites will go 404 far too often to bother trying to keep up.
This baby costs me not just time like everyone else, but money. I’d say about $700-$800 so far, but I’ve also managed to sell almost $200 worth of ads, so it hasn’t put me in the poor house, yet. But at some point I really need to have this baby pay for itself, this is one area I’ve been avoiding, I’m not really sure what to do. Selling ads is the obvious answer, but that seems somehow desperate, so I’d like to hear some other ideas on how to make LISNews pay for itself. Cost, the site still costs me a fair amount of money. How can I get it to pay for it’s self… that is really the big question? With plans to move it to it’s own server, the cost will go up to just over $200 a month. I can’t afford that, to help defray costs, Rory will be joining me (he’s about sick of hearing me say this by now) but there has to be a good way to get this thing to pay for it’s self, I am currently investigating Text Ads like mefi and google are running. The biggest problem there is we don’t really serve enough pages for that to pay for the site.
Ender The_Duke_of_URL had a really cool idea involving the LISNews stories, and metadata that I really want to get crackin on some day. Sort of an open Dublin Core system, where anyone is able to add metadata to a story as it’s read. It would be interesting to have an open cataloging system, a sort of meta-moderation-cataloging.
I had no goals when I started the site, which is one reason why I never gave up. I wanted to see if there was a need, and an audience for a librarian news site. I think so far the answer has been yes. At some point in the past year or so, I set the goal of having a thousand people visit a day, and we have almost reached that point. The past 2 months our stats showed about 26,000 people visited. Now my goal is to focus on our strengths and move forward with some new ideas that will help inform people, and really make LISNews a vital and useful resource in the LISWorld.
I’d love to hear from you, your ideas, and thoughts on the site, and how we can make things better for you.