It’s almost time to celebrate 6 years of Essex on Lake Champlain’s service to the community! Since launching in June 2011, the Essex blog has reached some impressive milestones:
- 127 contributors,
- 1,725 Facebook fans,
- 1,853 calendar events,
- 2,272 Twitter fans (8,911 tweets),
- 2,190 days,
- 3,699 blog posts,
- 201,840 site visits,
- 431,302 page views…
I’d like to explain the remarkable — albeit somewhat unlikely — meteoric rise of the community building experiment we refer to as the Essex blog. And I will try to convince you that assuring its future is important and worth your support. In short, I hope to persuade you to sponsor the Essex blog in order to ensure its continued viability.
I apologize in advance for the length of this post. There is much to explain, but it actually looks longer than it is because I’ve prepared two versions, a 60-second synopsis and a detailed invitation. Choose your own adventure!
It’s All About You!
First and foremost I want to personally thank you for supporting our vision and efforts for six years.
Because of people like you we have been able to sustain this community initiative for six years!
Since June 2011 our readers, contributors, and ambassadors have transformed the Essex community blog, calendar, newsletters, and social media channels into a robust, collaborative information hub for the Town of Essex and neighboring communities.
Congratulations. And thank you. We could not have done this without you.
I hope that you will take the time to consider the value of this project and our goal to become self-sustaining. If you share our vision, I sincerely hope that you will sponsor the Essex blog to ensure that it will continue to serve our community.
State of the Blog: What Are We?
- a powerful tool for spreading local news quickly and efficiently;
- a celebration of Essex heritage, people, enterprises, and resources;
- a friendly, optimistic, non-antagonistic forum that brings us closer together; and
- a beacon of citizen journalism created by the community, for the community.
I will dig deeper below, but suffice to say that our purpose remains — first, foremost, and always — proactive community-building and showcasing our amazing-vibrant-unique region!
Here’s a quick overview of Essex on Lake Champlain today.
- Our content is vast, targeted, evergreen, and popular!
- 3k+ posts published;
- 300+ posts in process;
- and 430k+ reads.
- Our authorship is diverse, representative, and ever-growing!
- 127 content creators;
- individuals, businesses, and non-profits;
- contributors ranging from hyperlocal to regional.
- Our audience is loyal and growing, growing, growing!
- 10k+ views during busy months;
- top month hit almost 13k views.
A Sustainable Future: Sponsor the Essex Blog
We have been profoundly honored by the generosity of these charter sponsors: Michelle Maron at Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness, Katharine Preston and John Bingham, Thomas Duca, John and Miriam Klipper, MacMan Ken Hughes, College for Every Student, Chris Maron and the entire team at Champlain Area Trails, Susan Bacot-Davis at Emmet Carter Green Design, the Belden Noble Memorial Library, David and Margaret Reuther, Carole Anne Slatkin, H. Nicholas Muller III, Monica Rumsey, Audrey Sparre, and the Essex Ice Cream Café. We are HUGELY grateful. And we hope that you will follow their lead.
“The heart that gives, gathers.” ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
As we start our seventh year, we are increasingly aware that self-sustainability is critical and long overdue. For the first 5 years I personally underwrote all costs associated with maintaining the Essex blog, calendar, newsletters, and social media streams, but expanding popularity means increasing expense. Maintaining Essex on Lake Champlain requires a hybrid volunteer/paid team to manage editorial flow and provide ongoing development, stability, and security.
In order for the Essex blog, calendar and other media channels to remain viable we must achieve self-sustainability.
I remain 100% committed to bootstrapping and to leveraging the collective genius and generosity of the many volunteers who create and curate content, who evangelize and multiply our audience, and who provide ongoing assistance and strategic guidance.
But in order for the Essex blog, calendar and other media channels to remain viable we must achieve self-sustainability. Toward this end we are seeking ongoing sponsorship from individuals, businesses, and organizations that value our track record and wish to be associated with our civic mission. We are eager to work with you to explore how we can best support your sponsorship goals and objectives.
In recognition of your busy schedule I have prepared two versions of our sponsorship appeal. If you are in a rush, please read The 60-Second Synopsis, and if you would prefer a more in-depth explanation, please read A Detailed Invitation. Thanks.
Sponsorship: The 60-Second Synopsis
As most of our readers know, the Essex community blog was created to broadcast optimistic Essex news when history-making floods were dampening summer prospects. (Please excuse the pun.)
Much has changed since then.
Today nearly over 100 contributors (and many thousands of readers) power a vibrant, collaborative, multimedia information hub focused on our amazing community and its heritage, enterprises, and people. It’s an unlikely but extremely inspiring success story!
Nevertheless, the time has come to consider the future of Essex on Lake Champlain and its constituent parts. In June 2016 — exactly five years after starting the blog — we officially launched Essex Editions, a boutique artisanal publishing venture.
We currently rely on book and merchandise sales to help offset costs, but additional financial resources are necessary to remain viable. This is where you come in. We are seeking sponsors to pledge support if they find Essex on Lake Champlain valuable. (Thank you to those who have already signed on as sponsors!)
To understand the big picture (and for a more detailed outlook), please read the detailed version below.
Sponsorship: A Detailed Invitation
Hyper-localize your commerce whenever possible!
I launched the Essex blog during unprecedented flooding in June 2011. No long-term vision. No real plan. Just a short-term morale booster for those of us who live/work in Essex and a positive buzz generator at a time when optimism was, well, drowning.
At summer’s end, encouragement from the community dissuaded me from sunsetting the blog as I had originally intended. The audience was surprisingly robust, loyal, and growing. So I decided to postpone “lights out” for a little longer.
By the end of the year, conversations with Essex neighbors (and research into other “hyperlocal community blogs” around the US and abroad) inspired me to undertake an experiment. What if we could transform this fledgling website into a useful, online information hub for Essex area businesses, residents and visitors? What if we could create an online “cousin” to the bulletin board in front of the Essex Post Office? And what if we could collect, showcase, and preserve our unique local heritage for all the world to enjoy 24×7? What if?!?!
In order to achieve these goals several things needed to change:
- The blog’s focus needed to expand beyond the handful of Main Street businesses that initially suffered the most during flooding.
- “Evergreen content” (content with long-term relevance and value) was necessary to supplement time sensitive news and events.
- A broader contributor-base was necessary to develop the sort of inclusive, representative community media platform I envisioned.
- And I was going to need help!
Fortunately, Katie Shepard materialized like a genie from a magic lamp.
Did you know that there are over one hundred contributors to Essex on Lake Champlain? Now that is a community blog!
Katie had recently graduated at the top of her class from SUNY Plattsburgh, and she was interested in research, writing, editing and publishing. Coincidence? I quickly discovered her keen intelligence, her drive and discipline, her persistence, and her passion for learning. Her responsibilities grew with each passing month, and almost six years later Katie is still leapfrogging my expectations. She collaborates with me on a wide range of projects, and I am proud to say that the Essex blog, calendar, newsletters, and social media feeds thrive today because of her tireless diligence. The expanded edition of Essex, New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide that is available on Amazon in print and in digital ebook format is yet another testament to her ever-dilating skill set. Katie is a force!
In five and a half years we have grown from a lonely one-person perspective to a thriving community of storytellers, archivists, boosters, and cheerleaders. Did you know that there are 127 contributors to Essex on Lake Champlain? Now that is a community blog!
Essex on Lake Champlain has evolved into a robust, collaborative, hyperlocal media outlet created by the community, for the community. The Essex blog has become a beacon of “citizen journalism”. Congratulations to everyone who has helped transform this experiment into a success story.
This journey has excited me beyond words (though I am unable to resist waxing on ad nauseam, sorry!). And yet I am increasingly aware that self-sustainability is critical and long overdue.
We have resisted invasive advertisement as a revenue generator in lieu of developing and retailing value added products like books, greeting cards, and branded merchandise. (Yes, books plural. Our third Essex Editions title was published last December!) Over the last year we have begun soliciting sponsors, and we’re honored to announce the generous community members and local businesses who have signed on as lead sponsors:
- Michelle Maron at Lake Champlain Yoga & Wellness,
- Katharine Preston and John Bingham,
- Thomas Duca
- John and Miriam Klipper,
- MacMan Ken Hughes,
- College for Every Student,
- Chris Maron and the entire team at Champlain Area Trails,
- Susan Bacot-Davis at Emmet Carter Green Design,
- the Belden Noble Memorial Library,
- David and Margaret Reuther,
- Carole Anne Slatkin,
- H. Nicholas Muller III,
- Monica Rumsey,
- Audrey Sparre,
- and the Essex Ice Cream Café.
We are profoundly grateful, and we hope that you will decide to follow their lead.
Future Plans: Essex Editions
In June 2016 we undertook an exciting transition. Exactly 5 years after beginning this hyperlocal media experiment we officially launched Essex Editions, a boutique artisanal publishing company. We are expanding from local blogging into transmedia development, publishing, distribution, marketing, and consulting. We will be explaining further over the coming months. Please stay tuned.
We need your help determining where/how Essex on Lake Champlain fits into future plans. It is time for us to evaluate what we have accomplished so far and to decide where we are headed. It is time to assess the sustainability (and mission, priorities, etc.) of the Essex on Lake Champlain blog, calendar, newsletters, workshops, etc. And it is time for you and other members of our community to decide if our Essex resources/services should be retired or supported and shaped according to a common vision.
The bottom line? If Essex on Lake Champlain is self-sustaining by the end of the year, we will enthusiastically commit to its future. This is our hope!
But if a combination of sponsorships plus book, ebook, and merchandise sales are insufficient to offset the cost of producing and supporting current services, we will reallocate our time and resources accordingly. In either case, we will be forever indebted to our community for believing in us and for carrying us this far. It’s been an amazing journey, and we’re both incredibly proud to have created a homegrown media resource that caters to thousands of readers each month and that celebrates the breadth and diversity of our residents, visitors, and enterprises.
Sorry for my lengthy explanation. If you have made it this far, thanks for sticking it out!
Please reflect on the Essex on Lake Champlain project, and help us decide how to proceed. If you would like to help sustain it, please sponsor the Essex blog. And please encourage your friends and neighbors to sponsor the Essex blog too. Learn more on our Support page. If you feel that the effort has run its course, please drop us a note to let us know what you think.