This morning we announced that our highly successful local news blog, Rockville Central, would be shifting focus. We will no longer be updating Rockville Central’s website, but instead will shift 100% to Facebook.
We think this is a pioneering — and gutsy — move. What allows us to make this move is that Rockville Central exists to engage people, not to make money or drive traffic. So, we are able to make decisions without having to worry about whether we will be able to find a revenue or traffic model.
This move is gaining some attention in the “hyperlocal journalism blogosphere.” That was not our intention, but it is sort of cool. Other hyperlocal experiments are watching to see what comes of this. To our knowledge, Rockville Central is the first local news hub to make such a move.
Here is the article as we ran it on Rockville Central this morning:
We are excited to let you know of a new development here at Rockville Central.
Since we began in June 2007 (here’s our first post), we have always stressed the community aspect. We aim to be an open, fair, and civil space in which to share views about what’s going on in Rockville. That means this site has always been about you, the participant. That focus has spurred very gratifying growth and we have remained in the top five local blogs in Maryland for a number of years.
However, traffic and readership has never been the most important measure of success for us. We are far, far more interested in knowing things like:
- How many people entered public life who had not participated before?
- How deep and robust were comment exchanges on key articles?
- How many people were sending article contributions and adding their voices?
- What other community web sites were getting started?
These measures, too, have been very gratifying as all of them have come true. Especially that last point. As new friends like Patch have gotten started and the Gazette and even the City of Rockville itself have implemented features we pioneered, and as current friends like Rockville Living have continued to grow, we are excited that the online community in and around Rockville is on its way to being vibrant and alive. The community is well served by this ecosystem of news, opinion and information.
Now, it is time for us to move to the next chapter in the life of Rockville Central.
Some time ago, we initiated Rockville Central’s Facebook page, and this has grown to become its own robust space for comments and participation. What’s more, in examining our traffic logs, it is the most important source (after Google) of traffic to the rockvillecentral.com site.
We believe that this suggests that Facebook is where people, by and large, have decided to go for their first-stop online community activities. Which begs the question: Why have a separate site, and try to drag people away from Facebook? Why not go where they are?
For entities and organizations that are trying to turn a profit, or have other institutional or organizational reasons to have a separate identity, it can make sense to have a separate web space. But Rockville Central is different and, as we thought hard about it, we realized we could find no compelling reason thatRockville Central needs to exist as a separate rockvillecentral.com site.
And so, as of March 1, all new Rockville Central content will be found solely on our Rockville CentralFacebook page. We hope you will join us there. Everything you have come to know and love about our articles will also exist in Facebook. You can comment, share, and interact — all with more ease and in one place. We’ll no longer have conversations in two different locations.
One thing that will change is that we will do less duplicative reporting. For a city its size, Rockville is well-covered, journalistically. We don’t need to duplicate the efforts of our friends. (How many recaps of the Mayor and Council meetings can you read, really?) We will focus instead on trying to build community and providing content and services that are different and not currently offered by others.
We don’t know necessarily what that will look like, but we are excited to see it emerge!
This is a bold step for us, and, to our knowledge, there are no other Facebook-only hyperlocal community hubs such as ours. It is our next step in trying to blaze a trail.
The existing rockvillecentral.com will continue to exist, and all current content will remain. Old links will still work. But, after February 28, there will be no new posts on that site, and all commenting will be closed. We invite you, instead, to post on our Facebook page.
Thank you for your loyal readership all these years, and we hope you will continue along with us as we embark on this next phase of our life.
We’ll see you over on Facebook.
Cindy Cotte Griffiths
Founder and Publisher