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Introduction

SantaCruzLive.com is a youth and entertainment portal for one of the liveliest cities on the West Coast. An extension of the Santa Cruz Sentinel (local newspaper), SantaCruzLive.com seeks to reach beyond typical demographic newspapers to attract a younger audience to the online environment. Newspapers have struggled with this issue for the past five years, and SantaCruzLive.com is one of the most effective online hit solutions.

Newspapers are notorious for underinvesting in their websites, which makes it difficult to develop a brand new website – focused on non-newspaper readers. What do you do when you can’t get funding?

Answer: “open source”.

Open source software is a free technology that is widely available on the Internet and offers sophisticated tools at no cost. The use of SantaCruzLive.com open source technology serves as a model for small businesses looking for dynamic websites at no cost.

An ambitious agenda

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has previously recognized that they need a way to reach younger readers. As the previous generation grew up understanding the importance of local newspapers, today’s youth are turning to the web instead. Movie listings, local events, and even restaurants used to be viewed by newspapers as the easiest way to attract new customers. That dynamic changed and SantaCruzLive.com wanted to take advantage of the new trend.

In an effort to appeal to a younger audience, the Santa Cruz Sentinel faced a daunting challenge. Investing newspapers in online efforts has always been thin, and SantaCruzLive.com would be basically a new product; It would not be free to see the newspaper. Knowing they would not be able to fund an ambitious new product, the Santa Cruz Sentinel team turned to the open source community for innovative software solutions without having to pay thousands of dollars in software fees.

Why Open Source?

Open source technology seems to be the domain of geeks who are constantly trying to build a better web mousetrap. For small businesses, however, open source technology has become a viable alternative to establishing a network presence. The premise of the open source movement is that the technology is free. You can easily download the software you want from one of many websites, and the technology can be modified to meet the specific business needs of the company.

The spread of open source technology has led to the development of a large talent base across the country. It’s easy to find talent; you don’t need to worry about getting stuck in heavy or clumsy technology if you lose your web developer. Expertise is widely available; the cost of this expertise has fallen significantly as a result. In fact, the widespread adoption of open source technology has led to the development of sophisticated open source software that can be used “out of the box”.

SantaCruzLive.com uses Zope and Plone – yes, the names are bizarre – to power their new online product. Zope and Plone are unique open source products. Zope is an auxiliary tool used to create dynamic web pages. Instead of paying a web developer to build sophisticated functionality, Zope has built-in features for you. Similar products would cost tens of thousands of dollars, but Zope doesn’t cost a dime.

Plone works with Zope. Also, open source (and free), Plone helps you manage content on your website. Many small businesses operate under the belief that each site is separate, and that even small changes must be made by an eccentric and expensive technology guru. Plone proves that even small businesses can create and manage websites like the Fortune 500. Instead of creating and managing your website from scratch, Plone enables business users to make and publish changes to the site quickly and easily.

With limited funding, SantaCruzLive.com realized that it could reduce its development time, develop a better website, and go live faster using open source web development and content management. Zope and Plone reduced the need for extensive programming and made the website easy to manage. The Santa Cruz team has new information that it publishes daily, requiring them that non-programmers can publish content quickly. Open source technology made this possible.

Small Business Lessons

SantaCruzLive.com is a unique example of how newspapers can serve as an example to the business community. Like most entrepreneurs, the Santa Cruz Sentinel intrapreneurs did not have a large budget, and the team already had their hands full of business managing the newspaper website (SantaCruzSentinel.com). They decided not to let the lack of finances and time hinder their success. Using open source technology, the Santa Cruz team was able to drastically reduce the cost of this project, and they simply invested additional hours to develop SantaCruzLive.com.

Entrepreneurs know the same feeling. We spend long hours developing our business. The business you do throughout the day is focused on marketing your products, developing new relationships, and servicing existing customers. Growth efforts often have to happen after hours. Money is always tight. We know all too well that investing in new web technology comes out of the same pocket as your mortgage payment and car bill. Every dollar spent is spent reasonably.

With tools like Zope and Plone, the decision to invest in online growth becomes much easier. Instead of investing in software and developers to launch a new website, you can cut the card in half. The software is free and there is a lot of talent available to work with you. Open source software helps you keep your website up to date – and keep your internet presence fresh. Your network project will cost a lot less because the software is free and offers the functionality you would normally need to hire a developer to build it from scratch.

Conclusion

SantaCruzLive.com was launched under the same conditions as most online entrepreneurial endeavors. The budget was tight and no one had enough time. Takeaways abounded because everyone on the team had “real” jobs. But open source technology has made this innovative endeavor possible. Without software costs, the Santa Cruz Sentinel was able to make project costs manageable, and the effectiveness of open source technology significantly reduced development time.

Small businesses face the same problems as the Santa Cruz Sentinel. We make every new customer, and every investment in growth must be convincing. Open source software makes new internet solutions cheaper and starts – and completes, much easier. The case of investing in growth consequently becomes more efficient as growth costs are reduced.

Open source technology is still technology. You will need to hire the right expertise; developers are unavoidable. With tools like Zope and Plone, you can reduce the amount of programming required. As a result, you both eliminate software costs and reduce your spending on developers. Web extensions may not be cheap, but at least they can be cheaper.

Copyright 2006 by Daniel Scheff

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Source by Daniel Scheff

 

 

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