PBS MediaShift looks at the closed email forums run by Front Porch Forum in Burlington, Vermont.
Started originally by Michael Wood-Lewis in 2000 for his own neighborhood, Front Porch Forum has expanded into 130 neighborhoods, with email discussions that help people get to know their neighbors. Each list is limited to people in each
neighborhood, who must include their full name, street name and email address with each post. Government officials are allowed to interact within multiple neighborhoods, and 50 businesses have signed up as sponsors. Wood-Lewis talked to me about the challenges of making a successful business out of a very popular service.
Says Michael Wood-Le, “We’re low tech, we’re email, our emails are plain text. Nothing’s anonymous, and it’s not instantaneous. When people submit a message, it doesn’t get published except in the daily publication. When heavy Web 2.0 users sign up, I usually hear from them in frustration a day later, because they want a Facebook experience where they can push buttons and upload 20 widgets. I tell them to slow down, that this is a different experience. The ads are delivered in plain text emails. We sell them on a per-day basis. Over a three-day period, we hit everybody. It starts at $78 per day and the price drops with volume.”