I took last week off from putting out our newsletter to give us all a break. No last-minute appeals to the spirit of holiday generosity. No sentimental journeys. Not even my esoteric stream-of-consciousness prose that seems to be pretty popular with y’all.
No, this week, just a couple days before New Year’s, the main thing I want to do is to offer you my gratitude, either for another year of loyalty to the lunacy we call the Greylock Glass or for joining us as a new reader and listener. I can truly say that running the Glass these last 12 months has been an incredibly satisfying privilege. Watching the audience grow, and getting so much positive feedback, has been a real inspiration. We fielded some truly vicious criticism, too, which can contain its own special germ of inspiration. And I’ve been weaving all that inspiration into a high-energy start to the new year.
In the first few days of 2019, the site will be getting a long-overdue facelift, as well as some new features. The homepage will, at first, look like a map of unfamiliar territory, but I don’t think you’ll feel disoriented. In fact, you’ll be able to get to what you’re looking for much faster. Before I get into any details, though, let’s have a quick look back at 2018—we did some very cool stuff.
We experimented with different podcast formats, played around with video, and added more written content in most categories. We launched some new shows and sections and killed others. We on-boarded new writers. We created a Letters to the Editor section that’s already a big hit. We conducted some of our very best interviews ever, with some of our favorite guests ever. We covered breaking news, both here in the Berkshires and in Brazil (because, why the hell not, right?). We went on location to cover the Poor People’s Campaign action live—the kind of coverage I think we all deserve a lot more of here in the Berks, amiright?
I deleted nearly our entire social media presence for six months, enjoyed the wonderful clarity of mind that provided, and then grudgingly returned to social media after watching our numbers crash through the floor. If 2018 taught us anything, it’s that Mark Zuckerberg could hand deliver all our most intimate data to shadowy foreign hackers and we’d still say, “meh,” and keep on using Facebook.
We launched both serious and silly surveys and a couple contests, which are just as much fun for me as they are for our audience—look for more of those even if they don’t necessarily further the cause of hard-nosed local Indie journalism. They make me smile, and that’s usually all the reason I need.
The Civil Network
The Greylock Glass was accepted into the Civil network of newsrooms. And awarded a pile of CVL tokens to help fuel our momentum and growth! So far, there are 18 newsrooms that make up the “First Fleet,” and 50 more (including us!) that will be part of the “Founding Community” when their platform launches in February. I am very honored that some of the heaviest hitters in journalism today looked into the Glass and saw an organization doing important work. Nothing about how you access our content will change, but what will change is the amount of attention our news stories will receive. Because we managed to get into the Civil network at a very, very early stage of Civil’s creation, high-profile news watchers from around the world are going to be keeping an eye on our content. And that means that people the world over are going to be hearing about the Berkshires, some of them for the first time (hard to believe, I know, but…).
The News Engines
We became an Apple News Publisher, which means that you can subscribe to our feed and read our stories (and even listen to our podcasts) through the Apple News app. Truth be told, it’s a really good content experience, too. We also were accepted into Google News, which I should have worked toward long ago, really. Not only that, but we were also accepted as a Google News Producer, so you can read our articles in the Google News app, which does not seem to support our embedded podcasts yet, but that will probably happen soon enough. What both of these developments mean is that we’re picking up readers and listeners from just about everywhere on Earth, which is pretty freaking cool.
In 2018, The Greylock Glass installed, as its credit card processor, STRIPE, which is one of the largest payment gateways on the web. That means maximum security, and it also means that no financial information ever passes through our servers; the input form you see on our page is a secure window to STRIPE’s system. Via STRIPE, we now also accept ApplePay, so whether you’re upgrading from a free membership to paid supporter level (hint, hint…) or purchasing something in our shop, your data is as safe as it is anywhere on the web. And if you use ApplePay, payment is also amazingly quick on devices that are ApplePay ready—like, one click to buy and then your pass code. It’s actually convinced me to start using it more myself. I haven’t looked into GooglePay yet, but I hope to offer it next year.
Speaking of memberships, I did not succeed in convincing almost any of you to spend as little as 3.3¢ a day to support the Greylock Glass, despite the fact that you say that our work is important to you. I’m not gonna sweat it, though. The results of the survey we ran in November indicate that you want advertisers to pay for the news you consume, and so they shall. Of course, the more paying members we have, the fewer ads you’ll see, so it’s really up to you.
The Upcoming Changes
Some of the changes being hammered out this week are visual. We’ve had the same “theme” since we started in January of 2015, which is a long time in web years. The new look is going to be super-clean, with easy-to-read fonts and some graphical features that are pleasingly simple. It should surprise no one that it’s more than a slight nod to my days in print media.
The new year will also see a lot more writing in the Glass—old-school text-based reporting that reflects an intensified focus on local news with a particular concentration on the area’s leisure offerings. If the conversations I’ve been having with some extremely talented locals over the last couple of months bear fruit, I’ll be bringing in writers and editors to help create or expand sections that cover the most popular interests and issues. I hope that as we get deeper into 2019, I’ll be less and less visible in the pages of the Glass. All depends on the workload, of course, but I need to take on more of the duties of publisher, which is to say, growing the business side and making sure 2019 ends with something resembling a profit.
I’ll continue to podcast the two or three shows whose international audiences are growing and stand a chance of helping to pay for the local news. I may let someone else take over the newsletter, and I’ll instead write a weekly editorial. I hope to restart our live events, where I love actually getting out and meeting more of you. And I have a couple other surprises up my sleeve I hope to launch in the last year of the Two Thousand Teens (!) if the fates allow.
But for now, just know that some day next week, you’re going to visit the the Greylock Glass and you’re going to do a double-take. And then you’re going to say, “Ahhhhh!”
The Advertising Opportunities
I know some of you will want to get in on the new advertising packages we’ll be offering. And I’m not just blowing sunshine. You’re not going to want to get left out in the cold on these options. What are they? I’m afraid I have to keep you waiting a bit longer, at least until the overhaul is complete, for the complete details. I WILL say, though, that the ads I’m most excited about are those products that you, the reader, will be perfectly happy to see. If you’re a business owner who’s interested in an advertising opportunity that puts eyeballs on your business but costs $0.zip unless it delivers customers, get in touch with me. Space WILL be limited.
Also, coverage of our different standard areas of focus—Arts, Business, Food, etc.—are now accepting sponsorship of each specific section. You want to sponsor JUST news about local business? No problem. We’ll find you a spot. This also applies to our growing calendar, classifieds, directory, and other sections.
We will continue to run display ads, of course, and will be expanding our list of audio/podcast spots, so really, if you have a business, we can help you reach a lot of people. E-mail me, and we’ll set up a time to find you the right package for you — firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, all of this—every innovation, every feature addition, every drop of sweat spent engineering and fine-tuning—has been so that by the end of 2019, the Greylock Glass will emerge as the best news site, hands down, in Western Massachusetts. No BS. That’s my goal, and I’ll accept nothing less. Because I answer to you, dear readers. And you deserve nothing less.
Wishing you a Happy New Year, and remember, in 2019, stay safe, be good to each other, and go easy on yourselves.
Editor, The Greylock Glass