SantaCruzLive.com is a youth and entertainment portal for one of the liveliest towns on the west coast. An extension of the Santa Cruz Sentinel (the local newspaper), SantaCruzLive.com endeavors to reach beyond the typical newspaper demographic, to attract a younger readership in the online environment. Newspapers have struggled with this problem for the past five years, and SantaCruzLive.com is one of the most effective solutions to hit the Internet.
Newspapers are notorious for under-investing in their websites, making the development of a completely new site – focused on non-newspaper readers – a difficult sell. What do you do when you can’t get funding?
The answer: "open source".
Open source software is free technology that is widely available on the Internet, offering sophisticated tools with no price tag. SantaCruzLive.com’s deployment of open source technology serves as a model to small businesses that seek dynamic websites without the accompanying costs.
An Ambitious Agenda
The Santa Cruz Sentinel recognized early that they needed a way to reach younger readers. While the previous generation grew up understanding the importance of the local newspaper, today’s youth turn to the web instead. Movie listings, local events, and even restaurants used to see the newspaper as the easiest way to reach new customers. That dynamic has changed, and SantaCruzLive.com wanted to take advantage of the emerging trend.
In attempting to appeal to a younger audience, though, the Santa Cruz Sentinel faced a daunting challenge. Newspaper investment in online efforts has always been thin, and SantaCruzLive.com would be a fundamentally new product; it would not simply mirror the newspaper. Knowing that they would not be able to fund an ambitious new product heavily, the team at the Santa Cruz Sentinel turned to the open source community for innovative software solutions without having to pay thousands of dollars in software fees.
SantaCruzLive.com was launched under the same conditions as most online entrepreneurial efforts. The budget was tight, and nobody had ample time. Distractions abounded, as everybody on the team had "real" jobs. But, open source technology made this innovative endeavor possible. With no software costs, the Santa Cruz Sentinel was able to make the cost of the project manageable, and the effectiveness of open source technology reduced development time substantially.
Small businesses face many of the same problems as the Santa Cruz Sentinel. We earn every new customer, and any investment in growth must be compelling. Open source software makes new online solutions less expensive, and it becomes much easier to get started – and finished. The case for investing in growth consequently becomes more effective, since the cost of growth is reduced.
Open source technology is still technology. You will have to engage the appropriate expertise; programmers are unavoidable. With tools like Zope and Plone, you can reduce the amount of programming needed. As a result, you both eliminate your software costs and reduce your spend on programmers. Expanding on the web may not be cheap, but at least it can be cheaper.
Copyright 2006 Daniel Scheff