VillageSoup Common

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The Common Advantage

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."   - Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Indeed, Jefferson’s words echo down through the centuries. And they’re no less relevant today than they were at the very birth of this nation.

But, oh how the times have changed!

In the late 18th Century, newspapers were on the upswing, whereas today’s newspapers are under constant siege - embattled warriors in a different type of revolution. Namely, "The Internet Revolution."

1. We’re at a Crossroads

The choice is clear. News organizations can either rely on past practices and legacy to withstand any siege or adopt new practices to participate in the revolution.

Like Thomas Jefferson said, we "prefer the latter."

To that end, we have created Village Soup Common. Comprised of a global network of small independent legacy and start-up news enterprises, the Common is distinguished by its unrelenting commitment to…

  • Sustaining profession journalism by pioneering fresh, new revenue streams, both online and offline.
  • Sharing ideas, resources and initiatives among our members to assure that we prosper and thrive well into the future.

It’s true - there’s power in numbers. As a network of committed, forward thinking publishers, we can accomplish more in the shared community than we ever could accomplish on our own.

2. United We Stand

As a member of Village Soup Common, you’ll be asked to freely and fully exchange information relevant to our shared purposes and principles, unless it materially diminishes your competitive position.

Likewise, you’ll also be the beneficiary of vital information and initiatives, freely dispensed by your fellow members. This "high tide" of shared knowledge will lift all the boats in our Common.

Common members don’t just share knowledge. We also share common purposes, ideals and principles, such as…

  • Equal status for all members
  • Open debate
  • Personal responsibility
  • Active involvement
  • Mutual trust and respect
  • Self governance
  • And, above all, dedication to professional journalism

It’s no accident that we chose the word "Common" for our organization. The term doesn’t just refer to our own shared community of publishers - but to the local, geographic communities that our news organizations serve, as well.

Village Soup Common is dedicated to using the latest revenue generating technology to seamlessly integrate community based news alongside a virtual main street of local businesses and spirited postings by the public. All flanked side by side.

This truly is a revolutionary model that looks to the future, not the past.

3. A Strategy for Success

If all this sounds like a winning strategy, that’s because it is… For over 12 years, we’ve toiled non-stop to refine and polish our model. And now we’re ready to share it with you - so your enterprise can prosper well into the future, as well.

If you’re like us, you believe that professional journalism and community vitality are the cornerstones of democracy. We feel those beliefs are worth fighting for!

Or as another great American once wrote, "There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin. It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls… For the times, they are a changin’"

Indeed… Let’s fight the good fight together. After all, we’ve got a lot in Common.

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The Common Way

The news industry is foundering. "Business as usual" is no longer acceptable. Finding a new business model to sustains professional journalism and the service it provides to community life and democracy is absolutely essential.

We all know that there is no "silver bullet." It's going to take a series of course corrections to catch the new winds and use them to our advantage.

But make no mistake… They are winds we can catch.

VillageSoup Common is a bold, visionary step to catching them.

We began with the belief that small, independent and sharing local news organizations should be the foundation on which to build. As chance would have it, we discovered a book entitled, "The Birth of the Chaordic Age," written by Dee Hock, Chairman Emeritus of Visa® International.

A Tried and True Model

From this book we realized that Visa® International dramatically changed the course of small independent banking nearly a half century ago.

Until it went public in 2008, Visa® was an alliance of over 21,000 financial institutions Visa® supplied the technology platfom and branding - while the members shared their experiences and innovations for making the service more productive and profitable for all.

Using Visa® as our model, here's how the 3 pronged Village Soup Common model works.

  • Village Soup handles all the technical stuff, so you don't have to.
  • Village Soup provides branding and promotion with national and local ads - building trust with the general public.
  • Village Soup provides a forum where our professional staff and all Common members share their experiences and ideas - empowering you to innovate and grow your newspapers in ways unachievable on your own.

Much like VISA®, Village Soup Common is held together by its functioning parts, namely all the members of the Common. Sharing and leveraging our collective experiences is the key.

Combine that with hassle free technology and national branding - and you're looking at future revenue streams that may just swell into raging rivers.

Whether you are a legacy publisher or a new venture and if you'd like to learn more about how this bold alliance works, just call us today and we'll gladly provide you with all the details.

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The Common Fees

We understand that making significant capital investments is always a tough choice to make. That's why we've created a model that does not require purchasing software and hardware - and begins paying for itself within months of initiating the service.

Before getting into the costs, we think it's important to consider the income side of Common membership. After all, this is what we're all trying to accomplish - online revenue to replace print revenue that is lost forever.

Our forward-looking "bizMember®" Program" is a central component of the VillageSoup business model. Local, main street businesses pay you an affordable annual membership fee to be on the virtual Main Street serving their customers. A major benefit to the participating businesses is that they personally administer their own microsite within the local VillageSoup website.

bizMembers are allowed to post an unlimited number of unfettered, unfiltered business briefs and business offerings to thier local VillageSoup site. For example, participating restaurants can post daily menus right on our home page. These postings appear side by side with news and editorial offerings.

The Internet gives small voices the reach that only big voices could accomplish in print. We understand that online we serve thousands who are trying to reach dozens. In print, we serve dozens who are trying to reach thousands.

Membership paid for after 50 bizMembers

Based on the acceptance and popularity of this program with a Mid-Coast Maine prototype installation, it's not out of the question that you could enlist a minimum of 50 bizMembers in the first 6 months of implementation. This alone would cover your annual Common fees.

Now to the cost side of the equation.

We work with you, based on your unique situation, to determine a favorable payment schedule that covers configuration and monthly service costs. The options include a fixed fee schedule, a revenue share schedule or a combination of these two.

The number of sites and regions you are enrolling is taken into consideration when establishing the fee structure.

Again, keep in mind that a minimum of 50 bizMembers is all you need to cover your fees.

Give Rich or Ron a call… Tell them about your needs, so we can craft a proposal that sets in motion a highly profitable, new era for your news organization.

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The Common Alternatives

At Village Soup, we understand that there are other platform providers who offer software solutions that address your digital concerns.

However, when you stop and compare apples to apples, you'll find there's really no comparison to what VillageSoup Common offers you. Especially, since none of the other providers have exhibited the ability to generate the online revenues that the VillageSoup approach generates.

1. We've Walked in Your Shoes

Our long track record in the daily "hand to hand combat" of publishing weekly newspapers places us in a category uniquely qualified to assist you in creating new revenue streams, cutting costs and sustaining high quality journalism.

And along the way, we've learned a thing or two about cost cutting, which is why we can offer you a pricing package that is quite attractive, compared to our competitors. For example, we eliminated the costs of third party front end publishing, classified and real estate systems.

In addition to our "hands-on schooling," no other platform provides all that VillageSoup Common does. Beyond our proven revenue generation, loyalty and branding, only VillageSoup Common offers in one integrated, proprietary package…

  • Site hosting
  • Website publishing
  • Newspaper publishing
  • Community posting
  • Online classifieds
  • Online self-serve ads
  • Reverse publishing of ads
  • Online news CMS
  • Print news CMS
  • Real estate listings
  • Self-service business directory

And no other platform is built to accommodate a Community Network business model. It's our firm belief that the key to sustaining professional journalism today and well into the future lies with embracing community and business participation in an unfettered and unfiltered manner.

Adopting this business model also allowed us to unshackle the restraints of the traditional community newspaper business, where the real risks of liability laws and brand integrity make content control mandatory.

2. Free and Open Access

Our philosophy also entails free and open access to all news as it happens online. This is distinct from the separate printed product that includes some online content, but clearly contains original analytic and feature content not posted online during the week.

The website features writers from the newspaper - and the newspaper features neighbors and ideas from the website.

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The Common Questions

1. Licensing:

"How is the Enterprise Edition different from the Community Edition?"top

In terms of core architecture - none. The difference is that he Enterprise Edition has additional components and features. And most importantly, you simply enter content into a system we operate for you, you benefit from a proven brand and you learn from others using the system around the globe.

In essence, we handle all the technical configuration and ongoing maintenance tasks at a cost far lower than you're likely to find on your own.

"How long after signing a license agreement could our site be up and running?"top

If no customization is required, we can have your site up and running in five to seven business days.

"What protection does an Enterprise Edition license provide with regard to the open source version?"top

Your license is exclusive for your geographic region. Another entity could create a competing site using the Community Edition. The chance of this happening is reduced by the fact that there is costly technical expertise required to launch, maintain and enhance the platform.

Furthermore, Community Edition users would be at a competitive disadvantage because they would be forbidden from using trademarked logos or share in information, best practices and innovations of fellow VillageSoup Common members or benefit from ongoing Enterprise Edition enhancements.

2. Technology:

"What technology was used to construct the Enterprise Edition?"top

The VillageSoup Enterprise Edition is built using open source technologies - Java, Seam, Hibernate, RichFaces, and MySQL. The JBoss Application server is the core server built on the JVM, thus allowing the use of any operating system where there is a JVM 1.5 version available (Linux, Windows, Mac,..)

"Can I enlist keyword rich content to take advantage of search engine optimization?"top

Yes. The VillageSoup Enterprise Edition is designed to maximize the benefits of search engine optimization for our members. Each site is provided with the ability to tag its pages for keywords and geographic names related to the region that the site serves.

The home page and center pages utilize a general set of meta-keywords and meta-descriptions defined in the site's configuration. Additionally, each post or story page throughout the site can be specifically keyword tagged by the author or editor to identify key subjects and themes to optimize a search.

"May I post video content to the site?"top

Yes. The VillageSoup Enterprise Edition provides for video content posting in both the editorial and business listings. It's not a function of the platform. But, similar to major news organizations, Village Soup utilizes YouTube to embed video to the content posted on our websites.

Regarding the posting of video advertisements, if you have the rich media creative, it can be served through an ad management tool similar to any other web advertisement. Please note, however, that our current platform does not have the capability to create rich media. Any work you may want us to perform in that area would be an additional expense at this time.

3. Maximizing Revenue:

"What do you offer to help generate revenue?"top

The VillageSoup Enterprise Edition revenue generators truly distinguish it from other models. They allow you to recover early and sizable returns on your investment.

Our platform currently incorporates four proprietary revenue generating components.

  • Memberships… This is the tent pole of our model - and it's what sets us apart in the marketplace. Memberships include three distinct revenue generating types.
    • iMember Premium - the entry level, paid user account
    • bizMember - for participating business
    • orgMember - for participating non-profits
  • Display Ads
  • Classifieds
  • Real Estate Listings

For a detailed analysis of how each of these four components can generate new and expanding revenues for your publications, just click on The Enterprise Fuel.

"Where can display ads be placed on this site?"top

Display ads can be placed on both the front page and inside pages.

  • Front page: 468 x 60 banners can reside between the main content well panels. On the sidebar either 300 x 100 or 300 x 250 rectangles can reside between the content panels (up to a maximum of 6 positions). A 728 x 90 leaderboard runs in the footer.
  • Inside pages: bizMember's 468 x 60 banners rotate in the header of all inside pages and between the story content body and comments sections. On the sidebar either 300 x 100 or 300 x 250 rectangles can reside between the content panels (up to a maximum of 6 positions). A 728 x 90 leaderboard runs in the footer.
"Does the platform allow businesses and organizations to be in multiple community sites?"top

Yes. The Enterprise Edition supports multi-sites, single management. Briefs, offers, listings and display ads can be tagged for multiple sites.

4. Third Party Vendors:

"Can third party vendor software be used with the Enterprise Edition?"top

Yes. Hosted solutions for such services as photo sales and auctions are easily integrated into the platform.

"What do I have to do to accept online payments?"top

You simply need a merchant account and we will need to access your vendor's integration documentation to test. Note: If you choose our vendor, it will reduce your start-up time.

5. Screen Names vs Real Names:

"Does this platform allow the use of screen names rather than real names?"top

Login names could be used as screen names. However, our own experience with this subject suggests that screen names lead to highly undesirable outcomes in a community setting. Consequently, we do not recommend allowing anonymous registrants to post to the site.

More questions? We'd be happy to answer them.