January 23, 2007

By Pat Walters
Naughton Fellow

[UPDATE — 7:15 p.m. — Rob Curley calls in. See below.]

Self-proclaimed “Internet punk” and local-journalism innovator Rob Curley has been at Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive since October, but still gets e-mails about work he did in Florida, where, for 14 months, he worked his magic at Naples Daily News.

That’s where he helped establish something called Studio 55.

It’s a vodcast. Don’t worry, I didn’t know what that was until recently, either. Studio 55 describes it this way:

vod · cast (väd´kast) n.

1. video on demand available on the Internet for
audiences who want to watch programming when they want, where they
want, and on any portable multimedia device they want, such as an MP3
player, or directly on a computer.

2. Southwest Florida’s ground-breaking new local news
program from the Naples Daily News and Bonita Daily News. Available
Monday through Friday on Comcast Channel 35, naplesnews.com and iTunes.

The concept seems straightforward enough, and the result is super cool. Check it out here. How, though, did the Daily News pull this off?

Questions like that one seem to be driving the e-mails Curley still gets about the project. And it looks like he’s planning to give us some answers. In a blog post Monday, Curley wrote:

I’ve decided that because a bunch of our new projects here at
Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive are about to launch in the next few
weeks and I want to discuss those here as they are released, I’d better
post some stuff about Studio 55 before it’s too late.

Now, there have been times that Curley has let weeks go by between posts. I’m not saying he doesn’t have plenty of good reasons. He’s an extremely busy guy.

But the site says that when Curley does post next, he will write about a few specific aspects of the Naples vodcast:

  • The strategy/thinking behind Studio 55
  • The equipment used to produce the project
  • The production process and staffing

Some questions to Curley: How did you (and your team) do it? What’s the audience for this kind of thing? How many people are watching it? How much does it cost? And is it making money?

Can’t wait to see some answers.

[UPDATE — 7:15 p.m.]

Just heard from Rob Curley.

He told me he expects to post the first of three pieces about Studio 55 by mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Will we see anything about the economic viability of the project? Not likely. Curley did say, however, that newspapers’ online ventures generally take about 18 months to catch on with readers. Studio 55 launched roughly nine months ago.

“I mean, the bottom line is this: People don’t look at newspapers and think, ‘Oh, my God, they probably have a television show.’ So, we have this huge learning curve to overcome,” Curley said on the phone.

Curley’s choice to write about Studio 55 now is not an indication that he is hanging on to an old project. It’s just the opposite. Within weeks, Curley’s new employer, Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive, will launch its newest project.

Curley is writing about the vodcast now so that he can begin to devote space on his Web site to discussing the projects he’s doing for the Post as they launch.

The newest Post project will feature video and will “definitely be something that’s a little unusual for The Washington Post,” Curley said.

“It’s definitely not video interviews with Donald Rumsfeld,” he said. “It has absolutely nothing to do with Capitol Hill … I’m really excited about it.”

Me too. So, keep an eye on Curley’s site for some reflections on Studio 55. And get ready for something new from the Post.

If it’s as cool as Curley told me it is, it’ll be work a look.

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I'm a freelance journalist whose writing has appeared in newspapers and magazines, including The St. Petersburg Times and The New York Times Magazine.I also produce…

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