Seven Year Reflection on atGeist.com
Every April, I pause for a moment and smile. A picture of a six-page black and white photocopy with the logo atGeist.com at the top of it flashes in my mind as I think back to the first issue of our Geist Community Newsletter being mailed seven years ago this month.
I’ve told the story of how we started several times and it never gets old. I remember watching my four children circled around our dining room table in an assembly line folding, tabbing, applying mailing labels and stamping 2,500 newsletters right before a family spring break trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina. One of my daughters, Taylor, who was eleven years old at the time, was enjoying her first hourly wage job. We still laugh recalling how she would look at the clock every 10 minutes and bark out to everyone how much money she had earned. She was literally a talking taxi cab meter.
While we’ve experienced significant growth over the last seven years, I still work with old friends and colleagues that I’ve known for years. One of the first designers I hired back in 1993 for my previous publishing company, Molly Tippner, lives in Lawrence and now does all of our newsletter design and layout. She and I worked with a client back in the mid 90’s named Michelle Momper, who has been a monthly columnist and feature writer for atGeist.com since we started. Of course, my business manager and wife, Jeanne, has been by my side handling the accounting and keeping me in check. And long-time friend and published author Andy Murphy, who I met at a writer’s conference back in 2004, has written several stories and now manages the local freelance writer corps we depend on so much.
Just like any business, we’ve seen several changes over the years. In the online media world, we’ve probably had to adapt to more changes than most simply because of the ever-evolving technology sector. Smart phones, iPads, Facebook, Twitter, and flip cams are redefining how people create and consume local news. In our own little laboratory I call atGeist.com, we fully embrace the Internet, print, and video as a cohesive marketing strategy for our advertisers.
With reflection also comes excitement for the future of what atGeist.com will become. You’ll see some growth and development in our local portals, primarily atFishers.com, atZionsville.com, atNoblesville.com, and atLawrence.com. In last month’s “Spotlight on Lawrence” insert, we partnered with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to create the launching pad of atLawrence.com. We hope to do these types of inserts for Geist and Carmel area neighbors in an effort to get even more targeted and local.
Video will be rising to the forefront after three years of experimenting. Our live streaming capabilities, daily video blog updates, and local cable deals with Comcast and Brighthouse Networks will bring another dimension to local content. Over the next three months, we’ll be streaming live events online and via smart phones at over 15 community events, including the Geist Half Marathon, Fishers Freedom Festival, Geist Blast on the Bridge, and CarmelFest.
Our most recent smart phone experiment is now ready for some beta users (retail businesses click here to try it out). We’ve partnered with a new phone app called Devotee (www.Devotee.com) that allows local businesses the ability to offer a rewards program to users who check-in using Foursquare, Facebook, or Twitter at their retail establishments. Similar to the rewards cards that you get at Panera Bread or CVS, Devotee rewards users with cash redeemable at the participating retailer for telling their social networking friends that they are at their establishment. Those rewards dollars accumulate in your account until you can redeem them for things like a free cookie at Lincoln Square Pancake House or an Asian BBQ Chicken Nachos appetizer at Michael’s Southshore.
One thing that won’t change in the future that has helped us be so successful is the focus on local people, local businesses, and local news. Everything we do revolves around the notion that we can always get more local. The delivery platform of the local content might evolve, but the stories themselves will remain local and interesting. Our goal is to make our Geist community seem smaller.
On behalf of myself and my family, I want to thank each of you for all the support that you have given us over the last seven years. We’ve come a long, long way and could not have done it without the support of our advertisers, our community, and all of our friends. That April back in 2003 will always be memorable, not just because of the Geist Community Newsletter launch, but the time our family got to spend working together and relaxing in Hilton Head. I’m excited every day I wake up to do what I love to do with the people that I love to work with. But I miss my talking taxi cab meter.