Tag Archives: pennsylvania

Keystone Politics and Working With Constraints

Last weekend, I upgraded Keystone Politics with new software and put into place a plan for a new direction that I’ve been contemplating for a while.

Why did I do this? After all, I had a profitable little home on the web.

Keystone Politics will turn five this year. In that time, we covered two presidential elections from the ground in a key swing state, plus congressional races and all manner of local political minutiae. But increasingly, a majority of our traffic wasn’t coming from the community, but from random searches on Google.

This could have been semi-profitable inevitably, but we were missing something.

Community.
I founded Keystone Politics on the idea that when citizens are better informed, they’re more likely to want to participate. And when we spend time discussing what’s going on in our government, we’re more likely to make good decisions at the voting booth. So, while KP looked like just another news site, my goal has always been for it to be part of an ongoing democratic discussion.

But We Weren’t Getting There.
Over the past year, I started to get the nagging feeling that we’d stagnated. We weren’t getting many new users, and the conversations sometimes felt like deja vu.

A New Beginning.
So I look at our relaunch as a new beginning, but it’s important to recognize the reality, which is that we’re a very small business with a lot of constraints – namely, time and money. But that’s what makes the whole thing fun. I’m going to work hard on KP to turn it into a place where people want to gather online.

It certainly hasn’t gone out without a hitch. I’m still running into problems while I learn Movable Type, but I’m confident that this is an excellent foundation for a huge leap forward over what we had for the past five years. We won’t get there today, we won’t get there tomorrow, but hopefully most days we’ll look up and realize we’re on the right path.

Keystone Politics Redesign

This evening I rolled out a new design for Keystone Politics. I never seem to be satisfied with the design, but this represents an improvement over the past color scheme and a professionalized look for the site. I’ll roll out specific new features over the next few days. Here are a few notes on key areas where I’m either testing a new feature or looking for ideas.

  • Subscriptions: For the past few years, I’ve focused on RSS subscriptions. With this design, I’m testing whether we’ll see a better response rate from a daily headlines e-mail. Knowing the political audience, I think it will be a hit.
  • Discussions: One of the biggest challenges on Keystone Politics is convincing our readers to participate in discussions on the site. I don’t think we made a big improvement in this area, but I’m going to be actively seeking out ideas.
  • Revenue Opportunities: I finally caved and installed a leaderboard advertisement banner at the top of the page. I’ve resisted it for four years, but increased server costs mean that we’ve got to bring in more money.
  • Cleaner Sidebar: We fit a lot of information into our sidebars; I think this look is cleaner than the last one.

Overall I’m happy with the new design, but I’ll be watching our analytics and metrics packages carefully over the next few days and weeks and making changes based on those measurements.

Taking Out the Trash

Over the next month, I’m transitioning back to managing Keystone Politics and writing about politics. I’m very excited about the prospect of writing about politics again; it’s one of the things I’ve missed the most since finishing grad school and moving to Washington. Here’s a post I wrote about taking out the trash:

One big question I have this week is whether we’ll see any disposal of the proverbial “trash” – news that no one wanted to release last week or next because it is embarrassing to them.
In this business, one oft-used tool is to “throw out the trash” at a time when reporters and the public are paying the least attention. That generally happens in one of two ways. First, when the media and the public are too busy paying attention to something far more important than your garbage. Or, when they’re too busy worrying about themselves…a weekend or better yet, a holiday.