Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gotta love MSN

Today's home page.

Internet Startup Reaches 10,000 members

Less than a year into the life of our Internet startup, we reached the 10,000 mark today. That's 10,000 people who have signed up to become part of the community of, the Web site we launched in December 2007.

As a former newspaper editor who hasn't much background in the social networking, it's taken me a while to become facebooked, linkedin and twittering regularly. But all of those things are now part of a routine day. Who knew it would take a few months to become a social networking junkie. Based on what's happening on our site's community, I'm not the only one.

In January, reporter Kim Hart of The Washington Post wrote a story about a new trend -- "social-networking sites have popped up to cater to specific interests, backgrounds, professions and age groups." Our site was one of several niche content sites named in the article.

Today, Paula Sirois, vice president for marketing for our site, said: "It speaks to the overwhelming need to connect, relate and find help." I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

PR Contest for an Internet Startup

Internet startups do things a little differently than traditional print products. Recently, we decided to try something a little unusual in the marketing department. We're working with Peter Shankman, an "entrepreneur, adventurist and CEO of The Geek Factory, a PR and marketing boutique firm in New York City."

He and our vp for marketing, Paula Sirois, came up with an interesting idea -- pitching to his clients an opportunity to do his job for us. Here's the pitch he sent out yesterday for those of you who might be interested in trying your hand:

So... It's Friday morning. Wanna win an Amazon Kindle? Here's the deal. One of my really fun clients, (They're all really fun...)Divorce360, is the ultimate social network for anyone dealing with divorce, going through a divorce, or coming out of a divorce. I've already gotten them some great press.

But can you do better?

"Do Peter's Job, because he's so busy sending out the freakin HAROs." Come up with a great promotion for Can be anything.

Basic rules: Has to be simple, legal, media worthy, and under $2,500. Email with your idea on how to promote the site. I'll pick a winner in a week or so, and if you win, we'll give you a Kindle, and pimp you and your company out to 20k or so people in an upcoming HARO. You don't have to implement the idea, just come up with it. Go have fun, win a Kindle. Again - DO NOT EMAIL ME - but kindle@d

Pitch lively!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another Good Week

A good week at an Internet startup that offers niche online content is simple. Some media outlet or another picks up your stories and runs them in their publication or on their web site. This week's highlights include:

1. picks up two stories off the site, rewrites them and credits our site.

2. Our McClatchy-Tribune arrangement pays off with another story published on, a web site for a newspaper in southern mississippi.

3. A large metro newspaper uses our site and a story as the basis for one of their own.

You gotta love that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

About Life, Love and Junny Rios-Martinez

A note to readers: Normally, this blog is about my travels from newspaper to online journalism. Today's blog is a little more personal.

Sometimes things happen in life that change you forever. And you can never go back.

Today, the state of Florida executed a man it released early from prison in 1991. He was a convicted sex offender who had raped several boys along Florida's Space Coast. On April 18 of that same year, he kidnapped and raped his last victim -- 11-year-old Junny Omar Rios-Martinez. Then he killed the boy.

At the time, I was a police reporter covering the beat. And I knew that night when I went to talk to his parents for the story, something in my gut told me, this child was never coming home.

I never met Junny. At least not when he was alive.

But I got to know him, a little bit I would like to think, by talking to his family over the next 17 years. I spotted him in the quiet intelligence of the younger brother he left behind. Or the impish bravado of his tough-girl little sister. I found him in the laughter his older sisters shared like a secret language no one else knew.

But mostly, I found him in his parents struggle to keep their family from falling apart after the unimaginable became their reality -- the unspeakable their truth. These days, couples fall apart for something the courts call irreconcilable differences. But for Vicki and Junny Sr. that never happened.

Instead, over time, their loss became a gain of sorts, a harsh recognition that sometimes life is shorter than we think, that the tiny moments of the every day are the ones that really count the most in the end. And in that recognition, they found a strength that perhaps they didn't even know they had.

Over the years, Mark Dean Schwab has fought against his death sentence. On November 17, 2007, days after his execution was delayed again, I saw the Rios-Martinez family at a celebration to honor their son. It was held in a park that bears his name just a few blocks from the home where his parents still live. "This day is all about Junny," Vicki said, before she and her now grown children and her grandchildren released doves in his memory.

Some years ago, I wrote a column about courage that ran in the newspaper where I once worked. I wrote about Vicki and Junny Sr. and said that courage was "waking up every morning knowing that your son is dead and getting out of bed anyway."

Today, I know I was wrong.

Courage is more than that, really. It is in the deciding that, despite what has happened, you will do more than merely survive. You will choose to live -- and to love anyway.

Vicki and Junny Rios-Martinez did just that. And no one, not even Mark Dean Schwab, can ever take that away.

In memory of Junny Rios-Martinez: 5/16/79--4/18/91