Technology, big grabs, long tails, and adaptation: Heading back to the future

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chicagoconstructionnews.com
The Chicago Construction News site, one of several US and Canadian regional construction publications/sites

It’s the type of weekend I enjoy. Late winter, and between production cycles for our publications, with most of the routine day-to-day work delegated offshore and to competent staff and contractors locally, I have some free time for the forward-looking to-do projects.

“Ah, a perfect time for me to set up a new website for our latest US publishing region,” I thought. I won’t name the region or the website yet because things aren’t finished and there is no useful content

As I started working yesterday morning I wondered how far my technological mastery had come. The last significant project, Californiaconstructionnews.com, in the fall certainly came together much faster than previous efforts, but still took a fair bit of time.

Not the new one. Within about four hours, I had managed to point the domains to an active server, load critical files, and build out the template to the point that almost all of the critical tasks were completed. (There still is content, that will take a few weeks to build, but it won’t take me many work hours as I’ve simply added our offshore writing contractor to add another zone to his responsibilities.) I also subbed off some more advanced work regarding security settings (https) coding.

What happened? Well, it seems I’ve reached the wordpress.org mastery stage — the point where the “Famous five-minute installation” on WordPress’s open-source site actually wasn’t just a theory.d I knew how to set up the databases, and how to formulate the installation files — and WordPress has improved in recent years to set out an automated installation script, simplifying things even more.

I’m not planning to give up my publishing career to become a website developer, just yet, but certainly the knowledge is helpful in pinches, and allows me to better guide competent subcontractors. More importantly, these skills are taking me to places I envisaged back in 2005, when I first perceived there could be an economic network of long tail regional construction industry websites with relevant local content but very limited administration and operating costs. Because the costs would be very low, individual sites wouldn’t need to be hugely profitable, but the overall business would be highly viable.

Then, like now, I thought the economies would be achieved through a combination of systematization and offshore labor. But the 2005 idea never worked — the offshore developers tried to create a unified site structure that bombed (instead I’m building the sites as individual entities using a standard WordPress theme). The idea of relying for revenue on passive AdSense income also bombed — totally. Beyond there being very little income, Google soon enough saw the sites for what they were — crap — and disabled my AdSense account.

(AdSense disablings are almost always lifetime deals. But in one of my more miraculous return-from-the-dead experiences, I was able to rebuild the existing sites and returned to the AdSense program as a help forum moderator, with annual visits to Google headquarters in northern California.)

At present, we have 12 active websites, ranging from Chicagoconstructionnews.com to Newyorkconstructionnews.com and Floridaconstructionnews.com, as well as our sites in Ontario and the national Canadian site at cadcr.com. (There also is an US national site but it isn’t ready for prime-time viewing).

How many more sites/regions will we add, and when and where will we expand the network? I’m not forcing the schedule, as the difference between the 2005 idea and the present concept is that each of the sites truly needs to have thoughtful local content and distribution/marketing structures, and it still takes time to these things right. But the vision is taking shape. Indeed, we are heading back to the future.

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