Recently had the chance to interview Mr. Paul Mongerson, founder of OurBlook.com, a political blog and blook that focuses on journalism, public issues and politics.
Paul Mongerson graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. After serving in the Navy, Mongerson spent the next 40 years with Stanadyne Inc., a corporation manufacturing automotive and aircraft parts in 11 plants around the world. In the course of his career, he earned 10 patents and established the company’s International Division. He retired in 1985 as chairman and CEO.
Mongerson has long pursued his interest in helping the news consumer obtain the best quality news. In 1993, he sponsored the seminar “Public Perspective on the Press” at the University of Maryland College of Journalism. In 1997, Fulcrum Press published his book “The Power Press: Its Impact on America and What You Can Do About It.” In 1999 and 2000, he funded the NewsWatch.org news website. From 2001 to 2005, he sponsored an award for investigative reporting on news coverage that was administered by Medill School of Journalism at the Northwestern University.
Mongerson is a currently a member of the Naples Press Club and, since 1972, has served on the board of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), a non-partisan, non-profit media research organization in Washington, DC.
Eventually retiring in Naples, Florida, Mongerson turned his attention to the internet as its usage became widespread. Applying his engineering practicality, the determination from his unsettling medical experience and his quest to improve the accuracy of the media, he founded OurBlook.com in May of 2008.
Me : Tell us about your background and role in your company.
Paul Mongerson : After visiting Florida for 30 years from chilly Chicago, I relocated to Naples in 1989. After a lifetime of researching the potentials and pitfalls of journalism, I decided to pursue the powers of the internet. The website is my experiment in marrying the strengths of publishing and new media to bring ideas and innovations to the forefront. As the founder, I hired two experts to administer the site, an editor who is a former journalist and a webmaster and online marketing specialist who used to work for Wikipedia. With their expertise and my overall direction, OurBlook has grown more than expected in its first year.
Me : What are your main features/service?
Paul Mongerson : The site offers information and interviews from experts around the world – academics, editors and reporters, and public affairs officials – on three issues defining the current and future public affairs environment: the future of journalism, the economy and sustainability. It then uses social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, to create a globalized community center to discuss and analyze ideas presented.
Rather than allowing valuable content to be buried in a daily scroll, OurBlook is designed to preserve and synthesize information through the site’s hybrid blook format. A blook is an online book culled from the comments and contributions of both readers and experts.
Me : What makes your website different from other websites competing in your industry?
Paul Mongerson : OurBlook is a tool to create a nationwide community, and the functionality of the site is designed to support and promote this platform. Reflecting the marriage of purpose between the blog and the book, the site allows for readers comfortable with both platforms to learn as well as participate. The dynamic blooking system allows the site to respond to the fast-paced environment of the modern public affairs arena while ensuring participants and readers their contributions have the potential to influence the long term.
Me : Tell us more about your website/firm’s success story?
Paul Mongerson : A young site at only a year old, now receives 7,000 visitors a month from around the world, which represents a readership increase of more than triple during the latest three-month period. One mark of increased traffic on the site is the publication of the site’s first blook. “The Future of Journalism” blook represents the synthesized viewpoints of some 25 experts who shared their prognoses on the industry in response to interview questions from the site’s editor. This original content was then combined with ‘blooker’ comments, or responses from participants on the site’s extensive online community forum.
Me : What are some of the myths of your field?
Paul Mongerson : In its frenzied growth, the world of online forums is increasingly characterized by intense competition for ‘eyeballs.’ A relatively young online presence, OurBlook is in the early stages of building its audience by focusing on one of its key values: collaboration. OurBlook is able to grow amongst competition due to its value added content that allows participants to play an evolving role in their own future.
Me : How do you develop your skills in this continually challenging environment?
Paul Mongerson : Read, read, and read! With things changing as fast as they are, reading is the only solution. However, surrounding yourself by experts also helps.
Me : What do you see as the future of the industry?
Paul Mongerson : With major newspapers throughout the country closing down, cutting back and desperately exploring new business models, I see online journalism moving to a subscription model to survive and growth in both citizen journalists who work online and their readership.
Me : What will be the challenges, do you anticipate any drastic changes?
Paul Mongerson : I created OurBlook out of a concern for credibility. The growth of blogs and reliance upon them for real news is a trend I am working to address by proposing an alternate format. I anticipate an increased need to vett the many voices that will appear as journalists in the near future.
Me : Where do you see your company/website in the next 5 years? What about you personally?
Paul Mongerson : We look forward to increasing our capacity, content and functionality.We recently upgraded our site’s software to handle increased traffic as well as graphics. We are also pursuing new marketing strategies to explore advertising collaborations with other nonprofits and pursuing partnerships with college journalism classes.