On Backfence.com’s expansion

By Steve Outing

Backfence.com, a citizen media company, has announced plans for a major expansion in the number of local community news sites it publishes — from 7 to 22. Last year the company, founded by Mark Potts and Susan DeFife, landed $3 million in venture capital money, so this expansion was to be expected.

Since my company, the Enthusiast Group, also is based on a foundation of citizen media, I’m watching Backfence with more than casual interest. Then again, applying it to hyperlocal news as Backfence does is way different than applying it to niche topics like adventure and participant sports, as we do.

It’s funny, because the Backfence folks (several of whom I know) seem to think that they’ve got an easier task in getting local community members to become active contributors of content and conversation than my company does in getting far-flung people who share passion for a particular sport to do the same. I think my company has the easier task — as is starting to be demonstrated on our first site, YourMTB.com — because of the passion factor. (Backfence has about a year’s head start on the Enthusiast Group.)

This will be interesting to watch.

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

3 Responses to "On Backfence.com’s expansion"

  1. Jonathan Trenn
    Jonathan Trenn 11 years ago .Reply


    At this point, Backfence has had a hard time attracting a passionate user base. It’s not well known in the area although it’s my guess that that will change if more areas are covered. I would think that your model as a whole will be more successful. Backfence sites need to be a bit more customized to the particular area – and have more personality to really take off. It’s a good idea, it just needs to be executed better. I’ve been blogging about this myself.

  2. Susan DeFife
    Susan DeFife 11 years ago .Reply

    We at Backfence are watching — and cheering you on! Actually, we think the effort to get people to participate is the same — it’s simply a different geographic coverage area. In both cases, people feel a strong connection with each other. On your site, it’s a passion for a particular sport. At Backfence, it’s a strong connection with what goes on in your local community. Yes, we do believe that at the end of the day the issues that are nearest and dearest to our hearts are those that impact our families and our quality of life — that is why we believe in the hyperlocal community nature of Backfence.

    All of these sites take time to build — the community first has to grasp the new model (yes, they can generate their own content!) and, as these are very personal issues, the members of the community need to develop a trust in Backfence. We are delighted by the progress we have made in the more mature Backfence communities — at the twelve month point, 10% of community members are coming in and reading the sites and 1% of the community has registered to post content. We expect that level to grow further as the communities continue to mature. In the newest communities, we are welcomed with open arms and thanked for providing the forum. Over time, these initial enthusiastic users will generate strong word of mouth in the community so that they too will generate levels of participation that are meaningful.

    Keep up the great work — we admire everyone willing to go out there and give this a try. It isn’t easy — but it is rewarding. Thanks for being such a great example.

    Susan DeFife

  3. Amy Gahran
    Amy Gahran 11 years ago .Reply

    One thing I\'m curious about — do you really need to cite a year for a copyright notice?

    I just explored this issue in <a href=\"http://contentious.com/archives/2007/01/07/copyri…rel=\"nofollow\">this Contentious posting</a>.

    On Contentious.com, here\'s how I handle my copyright notice on the default template throughout the site:

    \"PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT: All materials housed at the domain contentious.com are copyrighted by Amy Gahran unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Republication in any media by permission only.\"

    …No date. Whadya think?

    – Amy Gahran

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