Edmonton Notes for February 9, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • City Council voted 8-5 in favor of having Administration work with Prairie Sky Gondola to advance the proposed gondola project to the next stage with a more detailed feasibility study. “I know we have a lot of work to do, we’re going to raise our game,” said CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, who hopes to be back at Council in six months.
  • Aurora Cannabis announced that it will layoff 500 workers and replace founder and CEO Terry Booth who stepped down. Executive Chairman Michael Singer has been appointed Interim CEO, while Booth will remain on the company’s board and serve as strategic advisor.
  • Enoch Cree Nation Chief Billy Morin has been appointed grand chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. "Morin, whose nation has a mutual benefits agreement with the corporation behind the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, brings a strong business background to the leadership of Treaty 6," reports CBC.
  • City Council has unanimously approved redevelopment plans for the Jasper Gates Shopping Centre at Stony Plain Road and 149 Street. "RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust and Stantec will lead the redevelopment of new condos, row houses and shops into the area."
  • Neil Herbst, who co-founded Alley Kat Brewing Company back in 1994, has sold the business to Zane Christensen and Cameron French who plan to continue with the local and independent focus. "Alley Kat is Alberta’s fourth-longest operating brewery," reports the Edmonton Journal. This year the brewery is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
  • A new website called the Estimated Time of Arrival Tool "allows Edmontonians to plug in an address, destination, date and time to see an estimated travel time, and how that might change if speed limits were reduced," reports CBC Edmonton.
  • Local companies Darkhorse Analytics and Lift Interactive won a bid to redevelop the USA Facts website by pitching to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “You don’t get to pitch to the 13th richest man in the world every day,” said Micah Slavens, co-founder of Lift Interactive. “That’s not something we run into.”
  • "The loss of public river valley land would be an enormous cost to Edmontonians, especially in this time of climate and ecological crisis," wrote Kristine Kowalchuk, chair of the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition, regarding the proposed gondola project.
  • More than 6,700 employees completed the City of Edmonton’s December 2019 Employee Check-in, a satisfaction survey planned to occur every three months, which found that most employees feel their work is meaningful and their workplace is safe. "This isn’t necessarily about the scores but this is about the feedback," said interim city manager Adam Laughlin. The statement respondents agreed with the least was, "I feel free to speak my mind without fear of negative consequences."
  • Demolition of the Baccarat Casino has begun. The building, constructed in 1996, has sat empty since September 2016. "We’ve heard loud and clear from Edmontonians that the Baccarat has become an eyesore," said Tim Shipton, spokesperson for the Oilers Entertainment Group.
  • Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) will implement mid-winter bus schedule adjustments starting Sunday, Feb. 9.
  • Residential blading begins Monday, Feb. 10. The City’s Know Your Snow Day page can tell you when crews will be in your neighbourhood.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Playful Tracks
Playful Tracks, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events (Feb. 10-16)

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Taproot is my focus

I am always surprised when I’m talking with someone and they don’t know that Taproot has been a full-time endeavor for me for a little over a year now. But I shouldn’t be surprised. Though Taproot has grown significantly over the last few years and reaches more Edmontonians than ever, I haven’t written much about my working situation. My last update here was an embarrassingly long time ago in January 2017. So let me address that!

Taproot was still very much a side project throughout 2017 and into early 2018, though we did continue to take small steps forward. Karen Unland and I officially incorporated the business in 2017, for instance. For the most part we continued with our original membership-based model and we did publish a number of high-quality, original stories that explored questions posed by our members. We also built an award-winning microsite for the municipal election that fall.

In early 2018 we made a short-lived foray into chatbots which we thought might mesh well with our curiosity-driven approach. It didn’t work out (though I still think the idea has merit and could work some day). One of the key things we learned during that time was the importance of "priming the pump" for curiosity. So in mid-2018 we launched our first official roundup, the Tech Roundup. It was inspired by the Edmonton Notes and Media Monday posts I have been posting here for years, and immediately it found an audience, which was certainly encouraging. We added a few others in the months that followed and developed a second revenue stream by offering sponsorship inside the roundups. We also launched our first podcast, Speaking Municipally, that summer after Troy Pavlek approached me with the idea.

Looking back, 2018 was a defining year for me. My daughter Emily was born (she just turned two!), my longtime day job ended, and I made Taproot my full-time focus. I also stepped away from most volunteer commitments and became more hesitant to say yes to things (well, I tried).

Becoming an entrepreneur again (still?)

As you probably know, I started working at Questionmark in 2008 and led their worldwide product development team from 2014 onward. That relationship came to end in early 2018 when my position was eliminated. Questionmark has since exited the Edmonton market. I never anticipated staying as long as I did, but there were always new opportunities and challenges to tackle. I learned a lot working there.

I always knew I wanted to get back into entrepreneurship though. Growing up, my family owned and operated a pet store. That’s where I learned many of my earliest lessons in business. I started my first software company when I was in high school. While studying at the University of Alberta a few years later, I co-founded a podcasting company. Being an entrepreneur is something that I enjoy and identify with.

Focusing on Taproot

With my full-time focus on Taproot in 2019, we launched a few more roundups, attracted new customers, and spent plenty of time learning and building our products. That led to our third revenue stream and newest product: a curation-driven briefings service for organizations. Think of it like our roundups, but customized and personalized for a particular organization’s needs.

While subscriptions and membership are a key part of what comes next, they won’t make up for all that has been lost in local news. We need a way to capture more of the money that used to be spent on local news via advertising. That’s what we think our briefings service can do.

ATB X Graduation
Meghan Dear, Karen Unland, Mack Male, Curtis Stange

In the fall we were accepted into the first Edmonton cohort of ATB X, a business accelerator run by ATB Financial, to iterate on the idea further. It was a great opportunity to work on the business (rather than in it) and we took plenty away from the experience.

In the year ahead we plan to grow significantly. We’re iterating on our products, exploring options to increase our resources, and focusing on sales. We’ve got a solid foundation and are working hard to make the operation sustainable and then scalable (and replicable). The whole reason we started Taproot in the first place was to make it possible to tell important, valuable stories about our city and to use that experience to strengthen local journalism everywhere. That’s what we’re going to do.

How you can help

So that’s the update! I am focused on Taproot full-time. We’re building what comes next in local news. Our mission is to help communities understand themselves better.

Here’s how you can help:

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #375

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup, written and curated by Linda Hoang:

  • In a 23-tweet thread, Progress Alberta, an independent non-profit which organizes training, research, as well as political and community initiatives, says they felt compelled to speak out "with particular urgency" following two Postmedia columns which it says "sunk to such ethical and professional lows" while "aggressively" promoting UCP positions.
  • Mark Iype announced his time as editor-in-chief for the Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun has come to an end after six years. "No idea what’s next, so onward," Iype tweeted.
  • The Edmonton Journal’s Press Gallery podcast, where reporters discussed provincial politics for nearly six years, has been cancelled, former host Emma Graney tweeted.
  • Chris Henderson, formerly of Calder Bateman Communications; Alana Williams, formerly of DDB Edmonton; and Tracy With, formerly of Yardstick Research, have come together to launch Y Station Communications & Research, "a reimagined communications strategy company."
  • Congratulations to Claire Theobald who is the new investigative journalist for Great West Newspapers. Claire will be "touring the province bringing stories you won’t find anywhere else."


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

Here are some non-local media links that I found interesting this week:

  • A new report on Canada’s broadcasting sector calls for widespread regulatory reform, "including mandated Canadian content on streaming services and an ad-free CBC." The report also recommends rebranding the CRTC as the Canadian Communications Commission and expanding its role.
  • Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, sat down with The Daily "to discuss how criticism of The Times’s coverage of the last presidential election will inform our approach this time." Definitely worth a listen.
  • Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, is leaving to become the new media columnist for The New York Times.
  • I’m a fan of the Morning Brew newsletter which just announced it is closing in on 2 million subscribers and has annual revenue of more than $13 million.
  • For the first time, Google has broken out YouTube’s revenue in its latest financial results: $15 billion last year. "Those figures make YouTube’s ad business nearly one fifth the size of Facebook’s, and more than six times larger than all of Amazon-owned Twitch."

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for February 2, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Edmonton Transit has confirmed that rollout of smart fare will be delayed until 2021 rather than starting later this year as planned. A spokesperson said the City wants to be "extra cautious that everything rolls out as it is meant to."
  • Council’s Urban Planning Committee has approved the recommendation to implement open option parking. We talked a lot more about this on the latest episode of Speaking Municipally.
  • Prairie Sky president and CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson says there are 18 investors on board for the proposed gondola project. Urban Planning Committee grilled the company but delayed any decision until tomorrow’s full Council meeting, reports the Edmonton Journal. “The next step for us is … to consider a motion next week to authorize and direct our city staff to have further discussions with the proponents,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
  • The City of Edmonton has launched a survey to gather input on the new innovation authority. "We want to make sure a cross-section of the ecosystem has an opportunity to weigh in on what that organization will look like." The survey is open until Feb. 11 at 5pm.
  • The City will explore whether the lake in Hawrelak Park could be turned into a swimming pool after Council raised the possibility in considering upgrades that could align with the 10-year rehabilitation project slated to begin in 2023.
  • "Of all restaurant violations in the Edmonton area in 2018, almost one in five were related to cleaning cloths," reports CBC Edmonton. "More than 12,500 violations were found at restaurants between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1, 2018, in the Edmonton zone."
  • A report exploring how to replace SaskTel Centre with a new downtown arena in Saskatoon "reveals that city officials have been guided by the experience in Edmonton of building Rogers Place and establishing the Ice District around it."
  • TransEd has installed the first suspension cables on the Tawatina Bridge, reports CTV Edmonton. "The bridge is scheduled to link up to the south bank in the fall, and tracks and the pedestrian walkway suspended underneath will be finished in 2021."
  • Edmonton Public Schools is "moving to cut five school days in the next academic year in an effort to save about $2.7 million," reports the Edmonton Journal.
  • "While there were a number of high profile closures in 2019, most notably Hardware Grill, Noorish, and Manor Bistro on the independent side, as well as Red Robin’s and several locations of Tony Roma’s on the chain end of things, the scale was still tipped in favour of new restaurant openings," wrote Sharon in her 2019 Year in Review.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Polar Crossing
Polar Crossing, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #374

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup, written and curated by Linda Hoang:


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

Here are some non-local media links that I found interesting this week:

  • ESPN plans to air "more than 500 live original shows across its own digital properties and platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook," reports Digiday.
  • "More and more, publishers who engage in paid acquisition are reporting that they think about the relationships they have with their audience in increasingly nuanced ways," writes Phillip Smith in an article about newsrooms spending money to make money.
  • "As hedge funds take a greater role in newspaper chains, journalists at the Chicago Tribune and elsewhere are sending out an S.O.S.," reports The New York Times.
  • "If the media world were ruled by thoughtfulness, rigor and ethics, TMZ wouldn’t have broken the news about Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others before all the families were notified," writes Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post.
  • In China, the government "usually keeps a tight grip on what is said, seen and heard about it." But things are different with the coronavirus. "The sheer amount of criticism have made it difficult for Beijing to control the message," reports The New York Times.

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 26, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Taking action to fight liquor store thefts
“James Burns, CEO of Alcanna, Minister Doug Schweitzer, MLA Brad Rutherford, and Cst. Robyn Wilson, Edmonton Police Service, announced action to fight robberies and thefts targeting liquor stores.” Photo by Government of Alberta

Upcoming Events

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #373

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup, written and curated by Linda Hoang:

  • Keith Gerein’s column in the Edmonton Journal on Jan. 10 announced his new role covering municipal affairs for the paper, after covering provincial issues for years.
  • Ronnie Stanton, program director of Corus FM stations in Vancouver, has been promoted to lead programmer for all Corus FM stations in Alberta and B.C., including 103.9 CISN Country and 92.5 The Chuck in Edmonton.
  • A new journalism grant has been created in honour of late veteran broadcaster Peter Watts, who worked for CBC Sports Edmonton and was host/producer of Alberta Morning News on Corus, among many other positions throughout his 40+ year career.
  • Communications specialist Grant Ainsley has written a new blog post exploring what it means to be a reporter, after recent controversies over writers from the province’s energy "war room" (the Canadian Energy Centre) referring to themselves as reporters.
  • The Canadian Public Relations Society has granted accredited status to 19 members including Samantha Peck of Edmonton.


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

Here are some non-local media links that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 19, 2020

Let’s hope the cold snap is now over! It was so cold that two LRT rails cracked.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Overlooking Rossdale
Overlooking Rossdale, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #372

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup, written and curated by Linda Hoang:


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

Here are some non-local media links that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 12, 2020

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • "More than 2,300 people filled the Saville Community Sports Centre at the University of Alberta to cherish the lives of 13 Edmonton community members and 163 others killed last Wednesday when Ukrainian Airlines International Flight PS752 was shot down by a missile shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s airport," reports the Edmonton Journal. The memorial service held today at the University of Alberta can be watched online.
  • It’s going to be cold all week, so bundle up and stay safe! There were nearly 200 collisions over the weekend and numerous complaints about pets being left out in the cold. The temporary emergency overnight shelter at Commonwealth Community Recreation Centre had to expand its capacity to accommodate demand.
  • Edmonton finished 2019 with the highest unemployment rate of any metropolitan area in Canada at 8%, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. That’s in contrast to the national trend of increasing employment. “We still see this as us being on the road to recovery,” said City of Edmonton senior economist Felicia Mutheardy.
  • Holt Renfrew has closed its Edmonton store, ending a 70-year run amid a shift in strategy for the large-format retailer, reports Retail Insider. Here’s a photo essay of the store’s final days.
  • Edmonton’s NextGen is taking over "sole management of the Make Something Edmonton platform," according to a statement posted to the site. The website will be "repurposed" and the social media accounts will "transition into sunset and no longer be active" so it’s not clear what NextGen is going to have in the end.
  • In hiring Tom Anselmi, "the Oilers hope to bring a little MLSE to Alberta," reports The Globe and Mail. His mandate is to see through construction of the $2.5 billion Ice District which covers 25 acres on Edmonton’s downtown.
  • This year "will be a year of significant change for Edmonton, where we will receive both long awaited answers to lingering issues along with new challenges," writes Keith Gerein at the Edmonton Journal. He mentions the economy, winter roads, election politics, and transit overhaul among the major issues Edmonton will face in 2020.
  • Earlier this week Mayor Don Iveson met with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss the new NAFTA, but also homelessness. “The minister had seen some of the social disorder in the city and was curious about what actions we’re taking to deal with addictions and mental health issues here and homelessness and social disorder here,” the mayor said.
  • Joan Hertz has been named interim president and CEO of NorQuest.
  • Sweet Convenience, a candy store in west Edmonton, is offering a cold-weather discount on all bulk candy. “Whatever the temperature is outside — including the wind chill — you get that discount on your candy,” owner Laurie Radostits said.
  • Edmonton’s Christmas Market plans to return this year after about 20,000 people attended the first one.
  • ETS fare changes start Feb. 1. The single cash fare remains the same with most changes made to seniors passes.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Food, Health Innovation, the Region, Music, Arts, Business, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups.

Hoth Survey 2020
Hoth Survey 2020, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Upcoming Events

Thanks for reading! Want to support my blog? Buy me a coffee!