Creative Circle Advertising Solutions has worked in the newspaper space for years, doing consulting work for mid- to large-circulation newspapers on content and design in both online and print products. The Chicago Tribune’s triblocal.com is built on their flagship citizen journalism platform CommunityQ.

And CommunityQ powered the now defunct hyperlocal site for Volusia and Flagler counties – mytopiacafe.com—that I helped nurture to birth and beyond.

So let’s just say that Creative Circle’s President Bill Ostendorf and I have a history.

Bill’s dedicated to saving newspapers. I’m dedicated to saving communities. I think that passion drives us to want more for both.

image

And admittedly, I’m a tough client. I put his software through its paces, relentlessly seeking a better user experience, a sticky environment and a technology to engage community dialogue. For me, the software wasn’t good enough if all it did was push out content. Like the watercooler, the site had to draw those thirsty for good news.

I’d like to say that my persistence – OK, nagging – helped to make for a better product for the communities in which the software is deployed. And Bill and I have developed a mutual respect for the ways in which we envision the online community news enterprise.

The content management system, CommunityQ, is a homegrown, proprietary platform built using php. In the basic configuration, staff and users can post:

  • Stories
  • Video
  • Blogs
  • Events and
  • Pictures

Several additional modules allow for increased functionality including:

  • Circulation payments
  • Press release development and dissemination
  • Pay wall options
  • Social networking and
  • Polls
  • Donation/Charity function

The system doesn’t come with its own ad server, but they do have a partner product that is an add-on with node functionality where advertising can be segregated by site. And the interface allows for an XML export from CommunityQ to InDesign or Quark.

And since I last left Bill and his team, they’ve added some additional functions that give you flexibility in developing your site’s taxonomy (trust me, you never get it right the first time…or even the second time). You can tweak your “theme” and site layout in the admin dashboard.

But CommunityQ isn’t free. So I asked Bill about his competitors in the open-source space.

“As soon as a hole is exposed and you don’t upgrade, it can affect customer security,” Bill cautioned. I had been so focused on cost and function that I hadn’t thought about security.

So it’s back to time, money, resources and compromises. What functions must I have to attract startups or existing placebloggers to a new platform? What functions could be left to version 2.0 or 3.0 and which were essential? Maybe I could set fire to this project and see which ideas make it out alive.