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Passyunk Post redefines local news

Albert Stumm - The Passyunk Post

Albert Stumm

Stumm on Passyunk Ave

Albert Stumm

Albert Stumm

There's local journalism, and then there's local journalism. Passyunk Post, a blog "for the new South Philly," covers a specific section of our city's evolving southern hemisphere. The site relies on a particularly passionate local community -- and the restaurant and development obsessed internet hordes -- to drive traffic.

Editor Albert Stumm was raised in Missouri, but he's been in Philadelphia for more than a decade. After a couple years working in the service industry (including a short stint as a bellman at the Rittenhouse Hotel), he earned a masters in journalism from Temple University and eventually landed his current full-time gig -- assistant city editor at the Daily News.

That experience has served him well. In only six months, Passyunk Post has cultivated thousands of readers. They recently entered into a partnership with BlankSlate, a New York-based company that fosters local blogs by providing backend web support and ad sales management. 

Flying Kite met up with Stumm at Black N Brew (on Passyunk Avenue!) to discuss his site's genesis and recent evolution.

How did the idea for the site arise?
I started working at the Daily News as a copy editor five years ago this week. I was a copy editor for about six months, and then I moved to assistant city editor, which is where I still am today. After another round of buy-outs, I switched back to working nights -- my shift is 3:30 p.m. to midnight -- and I had all this free time during the day. I was wandering around [Passyunk Avenue] with nothing to do. You know that blog/forum Philadelphia Speaks? There was this woman on there who used to take pictures of the new places on Passyunk, and be all nosy. And then she disappeared for a while. I was like, man, I don't have any information! So I figured, if I wanted to find this stuff out, there must be other people.

How did you draft contributors?
They're all volunteers. They've been fantastic. I am so appreciative. They're my eyes and ears in other parts of the neighborhood. About half of them either were in journalism school or are still, or kind of want to get back into writing. There are some other people who are just kind of creative, and like taking pictures and wandering around. And some are real estate hounds. It's an interesting mix.

Do you feel like you've learned a lot about your neighborhood from doing the blog?
Absolutely. Just getting to know the people who own the buildings, the ones who are making the decisions here. It's definitely helpful. There are some [blogs] who are breaking more news than others. There are some that are actually trying to find new stuff and others that are just all press releases and linking to blogs. I want to try to make sure that everyday there's something that I generated. 

Tell me about your partnership with BlankSlate
They're in Brooklyn. They deal with Brownstoner, Brokelyn, a site in Washington, D.C. called Prince of Petworth, a few others in D.C. and one in Baltimore. So, they take neighborhood blogs, give you a redesign -- you don't pay them any money but you have to kind of work off what they provide. Then they start selling ads for me, and we split [revenues] 50/50. We're in the process of coming up with a rate sheet.

Did you have to have a certain amount of traffic to attract them?
Actually I'm the newest of anyone they've worked with. They were looking for someone in Philly, and it happened to be that in October I emailed them because I was interested in what they were doing. They decided to take the risk on a blog that was only six months old.

What do you think is special about this neighborhood?
What's interesting is that there are so many things to do. Just the change in the amount of time I've lived here is huge. I bought my house about six years ago, and that was right when Cantina Los Cabellitos opened up. That was the game changer in the neighborhood. When I was working at Rouge [on Rittenhouse Square], I would say, 'Oh, I live down near 12th and Passyunk,' and people would say, 'Why do you live so far away?' A handful of years later, it's the place to be.

Anything upcoming developments that you're excited about?
Well, there are a couple more restaurants. Noord is something where I haven't heard of anyone else in the country doing what he's doing. And the Dolphin Tavern [renovation]. And Chris Scarduzio opening at 12th and Morris, which will finally move Artisan Boulanger Patissier to their new location.

I can't get 100 percent behind anything that moves Artisan Boulanger further from my house.
(Laughs.) It will be about a half a block closer to my house now.

Can this neighborhood support fine dining six days a week?
I think that's the next step for the neighborhood -- attracting retail to support the restaurants during the week. That store, HOME, just opened up, and Occasionette. I hear rumblings of another store that wants to move from Center City (they would kill me if I told). Creating a reason for people to come here other than just food will help food survive.

I have to ask you about the King of Jeans sign. Will it survive?
I've been dealing with the developer, Max Glass, and at this point he's committed to saving it in some form. The best idea I heard was that somebody should open a bar called "King of Jeans" and stick it on a wall in the back. So, if you know anyone who has a dream of opening a bar and is in search of a concept, that's a great one.

Anything exciting coming up for the site?
The Daily News is splitting off from Philly.com (so is the Inquirer). They're going to have their own websites. The Daily News is doing a lot more neighborhood coverage and there's going to be a page for each section of the city. My site is going to be on the South Philly page, so that will help it reach a whole new audience.

LEE STABERT is managing editor of Flying Kite.

All photographs by MICHAEL PERSICO

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