Friday, March 16, 2007

An Interview with the Founders of inFredericton

(NOTE: The following interview is with the founders of inFredericton, an online site covering news and events in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Here’s founder #1, Sean Sullivan:

Here’s founder #2, Pat Reinartz:

Biff: How did the two of you come up with the idea for inFredericton?

Pat: It was really Sean who initiated the concept, so he might be the better person to ask. Generally though, our approach was inspired by other news sites in larger city centers. The question was: could we get enough grassroots support in a smaller city, like Fredericton, to update the site with new, local content every day? From a cultural perspective, I think we’ve shown that Fredericton definitely does have a lot more going for it than people sometimes give it credit for, and I find that very satisfying. We want to present Fredericton as a living, growing entity and engage people in aspects of their community that they might otherwise be blind towards.

Biff: How did you come up with the name?

Sean: One of our goals is to engage people in Fredericton with the community; to show that, despite what some may think, this is an active city with interesting people and a vibrant arts & culture scene. 'inFredericton' conveys what the website is about, namely, anything in Fredericton.

Biff: What’s the purpose of the site? Or … what gap does inFredericton fill?

Pat: I don’t think there’s any other site in Fredericton right now that does quite the same thing as us. Fredericton’s dominant media is still mostly on paper, and only in recent years have I started to really see online activity flourish. It seemed like the timing was right for this type of site. What we offer is daily information about the city in a concise, accessible, and fun format. Some people have mistakenly assumed that we’re in competition with other Fredericton media, but that’s not really what we’re about. We’re linking to other sites as much as we’re creating our own content and I think that’s good for everyone involved. We’re not afraid to give credit where it’s due. Above all, we simply want people to take an interest in the things going on in their own backyards.

Biff: Why did you pick a blog format?

Sean: Simplicity. It's a format our readership knows well and interacts with every day: new things at the top, older ones at the bottom. It's also suited to the sort of up-to-the-minute posts that make up the core of inFredericton.

Biff: Is Sean telling the truth?

Pat: Probably. He’s usually good about things like that.

Biff: How many people started out with this project and how many are aboard now? Can you talk about them a little?

Sean: We have a handful of very enthusiastic people involved in the site, though we're still looking for volunteers to help out. Our current contributors are talented students and graduates of St. Thomas University or the University of New Brunswick, with backgrounds in writing and photography.

Biff: Where do you get your content?

Pat: Just about anywhere, really. When we started out, the two of us simply did a lot of reading and researching to find interesting things to write about. You’ll notice that most articles include links to other source materials and often those are the sites where we first came across a story or event. More recently we’ve also had several contributors supply story ideas and we’ve begun receiving more tips from the community. Anyone is encouraged to let us know about news and events as they happen, even if you read it elsewhere on the web. We’re just happy to point our readers in the direction of these things.

Biff: Do you have any plans to use the site to generate revenue? What would you do with the money?

Sean: The folks involved with inFredericton are volunteers, putting in time for a variety of reasons, be it a love of journalism or a wish to contribute to and make a difference in the community. In the long-term we aim to generate enough revenue to be self-sufficient, but for now we're all volunteering our time.

Biff: What’s the biggest story you’ve covered so far?

Pat: My beat is arts and culture events, so I don’t so much “cover stories” as I draw mini portraits of people and places. Where the site is still so young, I have yet to “break” anything large in a news sense. I hope that readers will find more value in the sum all of the smaller stories we cover: the little things that AREN’T already covered by other media. We’ve recently started focusing on developing more exclusive content, so you’ll be seeing more “stories” in the near future. That said, we received some great feedback on artist interviews, such as with On Vinyl for their ECMA nomination or DJ Bones for his first foray into Fredericton. Biff: What's your background?

Sean: Much of my experience is in student media. I've worked as editor-in-chief to two large student/commmunity newspapers, and as president of a national student journalism cooperative, Canadian University Press. I've also contributed articles to the Telegraph-Journal, and was published in a variety of national newspapers and online portals while working as a reporter for The Canadian Press.

Biff: And your background, Pat?

Pat: I’m a Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and additional credit in Creative Writing. I worked for the Canadian University Press Arts Bureau for a year and also for three years on the editorial board of The Brunswickan (UNB’s student paper). Outside of that, I work as an editor and content coordinator for a Fredericton software company and perform solo electronic music under the name The Trick.

Biff: Do you have any idea how many readers you have? Is your readership growing?

Sean: We've noticed a growth in visitors every week since the website went public in January; and happily, the people who visit the site seem to be sticking around and checking it every day or two.

Biff: Have you received any feedback from your readers?

Pat: Yes, and there’s more of it every week. We love when readers leave comments on the articles, just so we know who’s taking an interest. Our goal is to foster discussion in the community, so the more feedback, the better. Most of what we’ve heard so far has been very positive, but we’d also like to hear constructive thoughts about where we need to step things up. We’re a young and growing site and unless people tell us, we can’t know what people want to see on the site.

Biff: Where do you picture inFredericton a year from now?

Sean: In a year I'd hope the site is a must-visit each morning for people in Fredericton: to get a handle on the day's news, see what's happening in the community, and plan their evenings and nights out. We're filling a niche here in Fredericton; the newspapers and radio stations aren't catering to the online crowd, which is made up of thousands of students and workers who are glued to computer screens for much of the day. We hope we're the alternative that people in Fredericton have been looking for.

Biff: Anything you’d like to add?

Pat: Not specifically. Just that we appreciate everyone’s comments, tips, and contributions. At this point in time, the site is very much a labor of love, so it’s gratifying to know that people are finding it valuable.


Post a Comment

<< Home