Sunday, January 3, 2010

Changes to The Pipeline in 2010

Bad news: During "staycation" the hard drive on my computer died. Everything was erased.  I was also without a computer for about five days. 

Good news:  I needed a break from all things electronic, and the down-time couldn't have come at a more perfect time!  It was an awesome few days, and a reminder that some of life's best and most peaceful moments are experienced off-the-grid and in the company of friends and loved ones. 

With that, uh, said, I am very happy to be back "on the grid," too. My next off-the-grid adventure will hopefully be sparked by will and not technical failure!

Everything that was on my computer was saved to an external Time Machine back-up drive, including a few thousand locally shot photos dating back to 2005. 

In Tuesday's issue there will be the following (I hope) improvements to the weekly Pipeline. 

1)  I decided that the blogroll need not contain blogs expressing religious beliefs of any kind or links to blogs for home-based MLM ventures like Mary Kay, Arbonne, and others.  All of the blogs on my blogroll are there free of charge, and I do it to help small businesses and creative folks maybe gain a little bit of extra visibility.  While I am fully aware that we are all struggling in these hard times-- and I am right there in the trenches as I constantly solicit sponsorships to keep The Pipeline going-- I think those that are selling MLM products should either pay for the visibility through a sponsorship, or use another media source. 

2) I separated the blogroll into three parts, with the first containing links to local media sources, followed by community organizations, and thirdly small business and resident blogs.  A few readers mentioned to me that when jumbled all together it is kind of difficult to read, thus I hope this newer look is a bit cleaner. 

3) We've ceased both printing of the newsletter and distribution. Sponsorship dollars from a key funder which represented about half of the funding received over the past four months has expired, and I do not yet know if there will be any future funding. The only thing calming the voices in my head are the many awesome testimonials from readers which were included in the recap, so thank you to any readers that wrote in! You rock!!!!!!! 

The $2520 in funding was in the form of a community grant over a period of mid-September to mid-December.  I am very grateful to both the funders of the grant and to the chamber and small businesses who helped to support The Pipeline. Without their support there would be no Pipeline.  

4) The Pipeline now has a live web site at  Months ago a friend told me he wanted to assist with creating a page for the newsletter, and I had all but forgotten about it until he called out of the blue last week. He said something- I paraphrase- like,  "Your issues expire after four weeks and you have no record anywhere of months of writing. Nothing you've written exists anywhere."  Hmm, point taken!

For me, the process of writing is the most enjoyable part of doing it, and it's one of the reasons I don't have many printed clips saved over the years. I'm often too busy creating new content or planning for future content to think about how to preserve stuff already written. Plus, I tend to hate things I've written when I see them weeks or years later. Not all things, but over time I will read something I wrote in the past and want to change it. I will cringe at how I sound in a certain sentence or two or three. Additionally, a web site implies "commitment."

 Perhaps on some odd level I liked the fact that what I wrote disappeared so quickly. This lack of archiving didn't and still doesn't bother me as I am comforted by the fact that The Pipeline is read most on the day that it comes out and it is more of a time sensitive newsletter.  OK, enough therapy. If anyone cares, I DO have a site now, and it will be basic. If somebody does want to read an issue from weeks or months past they can do so. This also means that when I meet strangers or potential new sponsors and they ask what my web site is I can refer them to an actual site. The home page of Chicago-Pipeline will feature whatever the most recent weekly issue is, and on the left hand side there will be links to past issues.  I might abandon Streets of Wicker or find a way to host this Streets of Wicker blog on Chicago-Pipeline, though first I must figure out how to run and use an html program and do the things I just mentioned. 

I will continue to retain the main strength of The Pipeline as a weekly product because readers have personally told me that they look forward to seeing it in their in-box and they like the fact it always comes out around the same time each week. As a creature of habit, I like the weekly routine and production schedule too.  A goal in 2010 is to see if I can make The Pipeline sustainable.  It seems like "sustainable" is the new buzzword in business. The truth is that it's just a euphemism for "profitability," and in a challenging time like this it's better to just shoot for keeping afloat, i.e, sustaining oneself vs. that big profit pie in the sky. I just want to do what I love and to be able to afford a roof over my head, health insurance, and food. Despite having produced The Pipeline for 10 months I am not close to this goal, though I see it fully realized off in the horizon. I have to see it. If I don't I am wasting time that could be better spent by believing in myself and in The Pipeline. 
Though some days are better than others, I am hoping that if I keep doing what I love to do and tell the stories that ring true to me, they will ring true to others and thus be worthy of being supported through sponsorship and continued readership. If stray from this path, or produce a substandard and/or inauthentic product, I will lose funders and readers. Thus, I remain true to my convictions.
4) 2010 will be a year of "No."  It's okay to say no to requests, and I will be doing more of that in 2010, and not responding to every email though I appreciate each email as most of the time I do end up including what is sent or at least mentioning it. Until I can inch closer to sustainability I may have to cut certain things out of the newsletter due to time.  In Tuesday's issue I will request feedback from readers on what they would like to see less of content wise, and why.  Whenever I whine to anyone that will listen about how much time I put into the Pipeline, a common response is to "Write faster!" In fact my mother told me I "just need to write faster."  Rest assured I am dancing- er, I mean, writing- as fast as I can these days.  I will just write about less things in 2010 but with more focus, i.e. quality over quantity. Scouring the media for links and shout outs will remain as is, since it's a popular part of the newsletter as are original images which will continue to be a big part of The Pipeline. 

5) Beginning on Tuesday will be the start of The Angel Club! There are two businesses signed up to be year round angels.  Angel is a cheesy word and I may change the name from angels to something else. If you'd like to join the Pipeline Angel's Club there will be more details on how to go about doing this in Tuesday's issue.  
Why all the changes? Why now? Putting the pressure on myself to put out the newsletter each Tuesday meant that I didn't necessarily have time to make improvements as I was going, thus I was aware of the small things that I wanted to do, yet lacking the time to implement them I just kept putting changes off. 

Of all the changes, I am most excited about the web site.  I am also weirdly eager about buckling down in a few hours and working on the first issue of 2010.  I am happy to be back in the swing of things and looking forward to 2010. After all this eating and lounging around there is no better time for me to hit the streets again even if it is freezing outside.  

I hope everyone had a great holiday and New Year's.  Pictured is a bar of "Hope Soap" spotted at Macy's which I did not buy because it was very expensive for just a bar of soap, and the more I write about local shops in WPB and personally know the very awesome store owners who work at local shops the less I can justify spending money at Macy's. Every dollar matters. To someone.  

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