I had an interesting phone conversation today. A gentleman had confused Marlborough Online with the Marlborough Express, and had called me because he wanted to raise awareness of a concern he and others in the Picton community had. After a short conversation, I referred him on to local media outlets, but it got me thinking about Marlborough Online.
I've always been keen on the idea of encouraging discussion about issues affecting Marlborough, in an open forum, and it's one of the reasons that motivated me to create Marlborough Online in the first place. Many people discuss issues on Facebook, however Facebook is a closed system that not everyone likes, and you not only have to be logged in to Facebook, but also have to belong to the right groups to be able to read discussions. It's also not an ideal platform for longer form articles.
I know there are lots of people doing great things in business, arts, education, volunteer work, caring for the environment and much more, and it would be great to have a place where all those stories can be shared. A model I've long been interested in is Huffington Post. Contributors provide content free of charge in return for a publication platform and readership. I believe there are a lot of commercial and non-profit groups as well as individuals in Marlborough that could benefit from a publishing portal where they can raise issues relevant to the region. Of course there will always be differences of opinion, however by maintaining editorial control, requiring contributors to substantiate any claims made, offering right of reply, and clearly indicating any association and interests in a topic by article authors, I believe it should be possible to present a balance of views on local issues, and avoid the sometimes toxic debate that can arise on social media.
The question might arise why would people contribute content for free. The answer is all about exposure, and it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. If I can build Marlborough Online into a popular web destination for Marlburians, then contributors will gain good exposure, and although payment isn't an option, linking to contributor web sites definitely is, so the whole project becomes a community building exercise.
I've put a lot of work into developing a stable, efficient publishing platform that is easy to extend over the last year with Marlborough Online. Now that I have a robust platform, it would be great to have other people on board. Do you have stories that you'd like to get out to Marlburians, and if so would you be keen to share them?