Meet Steve. He’s homeless, but instead of panhandling for money, he works when he can, and practices piano in his spare time.
Learn more about the Sarasota Underground and how we are empowering local creative entrepreneurs.
Reactions from Sarasota Young Professionals about a recent survey where 46% of local YP’s were thinking about leaving town due to the lack of affordable housing.
In this episode of RayDO, Raymmar is joined by Bryan Saxon and Joel Fenton, co-founders of FeedMe app for iPhone which is currently in early development.
In this Episode:
We discuss the decision to become your own boss and the process of going out and starting your own company. We try to decide what defines a startup, and then break into our individual stories and events that lead us to do what we are doing. We also dive into the concept of design thinking, simplifying your value proposition and debate whether or not the process of “selling” has become obsolete.
A few of Sarasota’s most active Young Republicans got together over dinner for an impromptu question and answer session with Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jeff Atwater. Oh, and I asked him what he thought about the potential increase in revenue that might result from the legalization of medical marijuana.
Meet The Conservative Hippie – Featured post
Who is Jeff Atwater?
Glad you asked. Ok, not necessarily glad (I didn’t know a whole lot about him before dinner either) but in the sense that you care enough to be reading this article to find out, I am glad. Mostly because politics is not very popular subject for the 20-30 somethings across the state of Florida, especially here in Sarasota, a town where the average age hovers somewhere between dying and death itself.
Jeff Atwater has served as the Chief Financial Officer for the State of Florida since he was elected in November of 2010 and sworn into office on January 4, 2011. He got started in politics as the Vice-Mayor of his hometown (North Palm Beach) in 1993. He would later be elected to the Florida House of Representatives (2000) and then to the Florida Senate (2002), where he was unanimously selected to serve as Senate President (2008).
What does Florida’s CFO do?
Florida’s CFO oversees the state’s accounting and auditing functions and unclaimed property, monitors the investment of state funds and manages the deferred compensation program and risk management program for the state.
Insurance consumer service is handled by the CFO, and the office is responsible for the licensing and oversight of insurance agents and agencies, as well as funeral homes and cemeteries.
Insurance fraud investigation also is overseen by the CFO, as well as ensuring businesses have workers’ compensation coverage in place for employees and helping injured workers with benefit payments and re-employment.
Setting the scene
It was all pretty laid back and quite intimate. With only 8 of us in attendance, including Atwater and his travel aide, there was plenty of time for us to ask questions and get to know Jeff and what he stands for. It was a much better setting than the more formal and infinitely more expensive political engagements that this town is known for.
Stating the obvious
The one thing I hate about dealing with any politician is that you always have to deal with some level of a politically correct front. You always get to see them from behind their public persona, and while I understand it, I despise it.
I hate that they have to run around worried about actually showing the world their real personality because of how someone might spin the slightest misstep and take it completely out of context. If only we could get past this political correctness and instead find some political honesty with the American people then I think we might actually be able to get a few things done around here.
That being said, I liked what Jeff had to say so I thought I would share it with you and let you decide for yourself.
According to JeffAtwater.com, his initiatives have helped Florida insurance consumers recover almost 53 million dollars in 2012 and 2013 combined (among other things) and a couple of his programs have actually increased the overall transparency in the way his office examines and issues contracts with outside vendors.
“I asked to look at them (contracts) and told my staff that there was no way I would sign them” said Jeff, as he explained the fact that 60%+ of the state budget gets spent on outside vendors and apparently before him, “no one was looking too closely at what was in those contracts.”
It seemed that for a while, there were a number of vendors who enjoyed a relationship with the state that was lacking any real accountability for any of the cash that the state was dishing out in these contracts. Something Jeff set out to change early on as CFO.
Jeff’s stance on fraud has been consistent through his entire term and he has been the main driver on a number of transparency initiatives. The Financial Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS) has made a summary for each of those contracts available online. This allows the public to see what, who and for how much, each of those outside vendors is billing the state. In addition to making the contracts transparent he is also working to pass legislation that would require the contracts to be bid out on a regular basis ensuring that the tax payer is getting the best bang for their buck.
MyFloridaCFO.com also lists a number of other transparency measures, one of which allows you to punch in your estimated income and see how much you can expect to pay in state taxes as well as where that money is going inside of the government.
I asked Jeff if he was scared (referring to the upcoming election) and he replied “Not of a good contest.”
He continued by explaining that he was a man of principles and that he would stand by them and not feel bad if that lead to a loss. Not exactly the traditional “winners mantra” but maybe that is a little of what we need more of in this country. Someone who is willing to stick by their guns regardless of an election outcome.
It is a little hard to even take the competition seriously though, as this excerpt from the Will Rankin for CFO 2014 website makes clear:
“But already you have to wonder about the success of a campaign against a seasoned and well-funded pol like Atwater. Still, compared to the last Democrat running for the office, Allie Braswell, Rankin doesn’t look as if he’ll embarrass the party.” – Read entire article
I guess if not being embarrassed is what you are going for, then good for them; but honestly, none of this really matters.
When you are talking about a race like this, “it is hard to separate yourself from the top of the ticket” explained Jeff, as we continued talking about the upcoming election. By that he meant that more people would be looking at the Governors race and then voting down the party line.
Understanding your responsibility as an informed citizen – Featured post
With former Republican Governor Charlie Christ (who is now a democrat), running neck and neck with incumbent Rick Scott in the upcoming gubernatorial election, Jeff seems to think that this race will be more about highlighting the difference between the two political parties.
The sheer fact that Charlie Christ is even in the running right now after abandoning ship on his political party leaves me wondering about the reasoning ability of the Florida electorate as a whole.
How bad things must be that we would be willing to reelect someone like Christ (especially knowing he is a political turncoat), instead of pushing to at least bring someone new into the mix. The Democratic party should be ashamed of themselves.
You mean to tell me there was no one better to run against Scott then a washed out Republican Governor who decided to switch sides when it was politically expedient? Are you so desperate to win that you would play to the populist agenda rather than introduce us to someone new? Is there no one out there that could have at least hidden behind the concept of fresh ideas?
NOPE! Instead, the political washing machine will keep cycling through the same candidates, each of them taking turns washing each others back and protecting each others power.
As for Jeff? I didn’t really get a sense of urgency over the upcoming election but you never know what is going to happen in politics. Heck, maybe they’ll even try to bring Jeb back to save us all? Whats that? He’s in line for the next Presidential nomination. God (If he exists) save us all.
– The end –
But what about the weed question?
I didn’t figure you’d let me get away with that, especially since I teased it in the beginning, so here you go.
After dinner I asked Jeff what, if any, plans they had for the increase in tax revenue that might come from the legalization of medical Marijuana in the state of Florida. His answer was unequivocally “No comment” (albeit while laughing) which I kind of expected. I am not sure that the initiative will even pass, although it does seem to be well supported.
What did you think the acting CFO would say to a question like this? Especially on an issue that his party is running directly against. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in November.
What do you think? Did I get it wrong? Leave your comments below and be sure to share this article with a friend.
A statistical traffic analysis of the top 12 new-media websites in Sarasota Florida. How do they all stack up? Read on to find out.
Understanding The List
People have recently been asking me how popular my website is in comparison to some other websites here in town. I usually just give them my traffic stats, but I wanted a better way to show how our traffic stacks up against some of the top new-media websites in Sarasota Florida (my home market).
I used Alexa rankings for each of the 12 websites and ordered them based on their traffic volumes and user engagement levels.
I understand that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison and Alexa does estimate some of these traffic stats, but it does show the impact of our overall reach and growing popularity compared to other influential websites in the Sarasota market.
I also understand that Raymmar.com is not a traditional media or “news” organization. We are however, a place where people come to think and ask questions about life in general. If you ask anyone in the media game, they will tell you that it all comes down to attracting eyeballs, so with that in mind, I figured it was fair to use a measurement of online eyeballs as a relatively easy way for people to understand our online reach.
Below you will find a screen shot of each sites Alexa rank and stats, along with a brief description of my thoughts on each of these Sarasota-centered media companies.
What is New Media?
New media refers to on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere, on any digital device, as well as interactive user feedback, and creative participation.
Another aspect of new media is the real-time generation of new and unregulated content.
What is Alexa traffic rank?
An excerpt from the About Alexa page
Our global traffic rank is a measure of how a website is doing relative to all other sites on the web over the past 3 months.
The rank is calculated using a proprietary methodology that combines a site’s estimated average of daily unique visitors and its estimated number of pageviews over the past 3 months.
We provide a similar country-specific ranking, which is a measurement of how a website ranks in a particular country relative to other sites over the past month.
You can find a more thorough explanation of the logic behind the list at the end of this article.
#1 – HeraldTribune.com
It is probably not a surprise that these guys are at the top of the list considering the size of their national parent network. They have a daily newspaper and the largest online presence of any Sarasota based media company.
The Herald Tribune is also a subscription based website so they limit the number of articles you can read on their site before forcing you to sign up for a subscription.
Apparently you can get around it with some browser extensions or masking services but, with so many other places on line to get the news, I’m really not sure it is worth the hassle.
#2 – MySuncoast.com – ABC 7
MySuncoast.com is the website for ABC 7, which is another top performer in the Sarasota media game.
With a headquarters downtown Sarasota and daily televised news broadcasts, they are one of the preeminent sources for local news here in Sarasota, although they could still use some help with their overall web presence.
#3 – Raymmar.com
I was fairly certain that I would be on this list, but I honestly never expected it to be at #3. Considering I am the only one-man-show on this list, it was definitely one heck of a surprise.
Raymmar.com has become virally popular over the last year and I have started to create a name for this website as a creative playground for independent thinkers all around the world. I have the #1 article on Medium.com right now, am regularly featured on the Huffington Post and just got picked up as a contributor to Elite Daily (658 Alexa US ranking).
Because of the websites increasing popularity on a national scale, I automatically gain credibility when talking about issues in Sarasota. You should definitely look for me to start infiltrating more Sarasota based search results in the near future as I start to shift some of my focus to the local market.
I am always open to online collaborative projects. If anyone reading this wants to talk about working on something with me locally, they can contact me here. Together we can continue to build awareness for Sarasota on a national level.
#4 – YourObserver.com
The Observer Group is another local media outlet that is a more niche-based print publication.
They are known for their local newspapers that are targeted to specific sections of the Sarasota market. For instance, they customize publications for Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota, Siesta Key and others. They even have a Black Tie section. The first one I noticed that specifically targets the Sarasota socialites. Something that many of the other Sarasota publications have in common.
This is also the first on the list that is not ranked under 100,000 globally, so there is no historical graph data. You can however still see their rank in the United States as well as their basic page engagement.
Just an observation:
You can see that the online competition for media companies in the Sarasota market is not that stiff. Any one of these companies could make a big jump up on this list with a fairly targeted shift in online distribution strategies. In case any of you are reading this…
From here on down the websites get considerably less popular. The next time I do a report like this I will probably open the field up to the broader St Pete and Tampa market.
#5 – SarasotaMagazine.com
Sarasota Magazine comes in at #5 with their popular local magazine.
I have no idea how big their print reach is, but their web presence is weak for an organization of this size.
It makes me wonder what kind of people are running the online marketing divisions at these local companies and how they justify their salaries.
The site is simple but plain and had no real pop. What I find to be truly ironic, is how poorly the present themselves online, considering how beautifully edited their magazines are.You’d think they might consider spending a little more time on building a beautiful web presence to match.
#6 – TicketSarasota.com
I actually liked the initial feeling I got when I landed on their homepage.
This was my first time on the Ticket Sarasota website. but there was a friendly image and the articles are laid out nicely so good on them, but you can tell by their traffic that it is still not that popular a resource.
I see immediately that I can search the Herald-Tribune restaurant listings and then I see the email address is email@example.com and I realize that this is another facet of the #1 company on this list, The Herald Tribune.
#7 – VisitSarasota.org
Visit Sarasota cuts their teeth by preparing pre-arrival Sarasota Visitor Guides.
They were distributed to about 47,000 people last year and their website is actually colorful and vibrant.
They are so close to getting it right, but they need that final refinement to make the magic happen.
Headings, subheadings and paragraph breaks are all important to how the site content makes a user feel. There were some good articles on this site but the deluge of text on the screen makes the articles seem intimidating. Format the articles, break up the text and give your content some hierarchy and you might get people to stick around a little longer.
I understand that their priority might not be focused online but they did brag about reaching 47,000 people with their mailers. I reach more than 47,000 people in any given month and we have done hundreds of thousands of views per month so you have to think these guys are missing out on some online sales opportunities.
#8 – ThisWeekInSarasota.com – TWIS
This Week In Sarasota’s web traffic is on a steady decline if these web stats are accurate.
TWIS was founded by Matt Orr, and claims to be “The the premier site for what to do, where to go, who to know and what’s going on this week in Sarasota.” Sounds good but their traffic trends say otherwise.
There was some kind of connection between TWIS and a few of the folks over at the HuB, but that is long over and although I do not know the whole story, I do know that this website is nowhere near as popular as it used to be.
They do have a calendar on the site and have apparently partnered with Ringling Underground for their Culture Collective subscription which gives them some potential for a jump in this list if they leverage that relationship properly.
#9 – SarasotaDay.com
Sarasota Day is an online media company based out of the HuB and was founded by local entrepreneur, David Daly.
I contribute to this site once in a while and they have some great writers and story concepts but I really think they hurt themselves when they started requiring people to like their posts (like-gate) before being able to read them.
As of writing this article, they no longer require you to like their articles before you can read them but according to these numbers it definitely left a mark on their overall web presence.
I wouldn’t count these guys out just yet though, with the backing of the HuB and a surplus of creative contributors, they are a viable Sarasota new-media start up.
I think we can probably attribute this temporary dip to growing pains and you can expect to see them climbing this list in the years to come.
#10 – biz941.com
Biz941 has a clean website, but it’s terrible on a mobile phone. They are best known for their magazine and also have a large daily email blast.
I am however, once again left speechless that their web presence would not match the quality of their print publication. The cost to produce and distribute online content versus print media should be appealing enough for these guys to get their web-game in gear.
I have to imagine this trend in online media in Sarasota has to do with the demographics but I also think there are enough under 40’s to warrant a strong online media outlet that really gets it right. Maybe someone should do something about that.
#11 – SceneSarasota.com
Not a whole lot of data here and it is easy to see why when you go to their website.
It looks like it has not been updated in a decade and I don’t think much of their audience spends a lot of time online. I could be wrong but with an Alexa score above 3 million, these guys cant be doing more than a few thousand views a month online.
#12 – SRQMagazine.com
To me, this was probably the biggest surprise on the list.
Their magazine is beautifully laid out and quite popular throughout the community, but their website leaves much to be desired.
It’s hard to even have them on this list of new-media companies with a website like this but they do have a large print audience and clout in the community so here they are.
If someone from this magazine reads this article, lets talk, you need my help online.
I wouldn’t feel right talking about Sarasota media companies and not mention being censored by WSLR – a community radio station in Sarasota. Lets just say they were not a fan of my work.
Their website is barely noticeable in the Alexa rankings and since their signal only covers the major Sarasota metro area, they are not a player when it comes to online new-media websites.
I also felt obligated to acknowledge the largest media outlet in Manatee County, The Bradenton Herald, in this article.
Their traffic would land them at the #2 on this list but I specifically only included websites that are based in Sarasota.
There is also Bay News 9 but that is more of a super regional outlet so again, I left them out. The next time I do one of these reviews I will probably open the search up to the entire Tampa Bay region.
The logic behind these rankings
This list is by no means a comprehensive, side-by-side comparison of the different media sites in the Sarasota area. I considered a number of local and regional media sites and then selected the 12 that I thought represented the Sarasota market most accurately based on feedback from the community and extensive online search.
What I did not consider:
I did not take social media engagement into account or email list size while compiling this report. I also did not consider all of the little regional websites in St. Pete, Tampa or even Bradenton.
If you think I missed a popular, local, new-media website, then please let me know in the comments below. I want this article to be an accurate representation of the media websites in and around Sarasota, but I also understand that I may have somehow overlooked someone.
What does any of this mean?
Nothing. Something. Everything? I guess it depends on who you are.
These sites are all locally based and targeted specifically to the Sarasota market. Sarasota has an older demographic so it makes sense that some of media companies have a limited web presence.
The problem is that the times are changing and this should definitely be a wake up call for some – if not all – of the companies on this list.
If you are a retail store or restaurant owner, you might get your value out of spending some advertising dollars with a few of these companies, but based on these results, you might want to ask for some validated stats before renewing your advertising contract.
If you are looking to reach a larger audience, then you might want to consider alternative outlets for your online advertising dollars.
You might even want to consider hiring a consultant to help guide your online content strategy in order to scale your overall web presence.
Exploring enlightenment; Can you find it or does it find you?
Kyle Cross helps me break down the quest for enlightenment and how to participate in the conversation. We talk about why you should not be getting your news in 3 minute segments from the main street media and why you need to surround your brain with interesting ideas from other people in order to truly stimulate your own creative process.
We discuss the basics of enlightenment being the ability to recognize that you know absolutely nothing but desire to know everything. It is a self awareness and understanding of how significant you can really be but how much easier it is to allow yourself to become insignificant.
Between discussing the quest for enlightenment we dive into a bit of religion, drugs, graffiti and more. Kyle even dives into a bit of his personal background and talks about his childhood and even mentions growing up as an orphan.
Always A RayDO Twist
We talk about some of my favorite YouTube channels and how to find the information you need and want in the moment you need it. Quit pretending like you have to wait for the information you need to come to you, instead of just going out and working hard to find it.
You Tube References –
Here are the YouTube channels I mentioned in the podcast.
- V-Sauce – Awesome videos about science and life. History from a whole new perspective. I promise you will love this.
- Minute Physics – Quick videos that help you understand complex physics in a fun way.
- Smarter Every Day – Down to earth explanations of curious topics in science. #LoveThisGuy
- ASAP Science – More simple science that blows your mind. Short video crack.
- Raymmar.com – Obviously you should subscribe to my YouTube channel!
We also explore the growing digital network that is enslaving all of us, discuss the possibility of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) destroying it all and how instant communication could potentially lead to a completely new digital nation.
We touch on the evolution of online commerce and understanding how we might soon be able to plug into computers. Whether for gaming, porn, gambling or any other experience that will inevitably be digitized, the human experience will be merged with the digital life soon enough.
As always, we explain why we do what we do and show you how all of these issues are interconnected and how they can let you bring all of these experiences together in a completely new understanding on the meaning of life.
Introducing Sarasota Underground
In this episode of RayDO we talk about my current city of residence, Sarasota Florida and my plans for SarasotaUnderground.com.
We begin to explore the inner workings of a city that is dead set on staying the same and why some would restrict its growth.
We also talk about the difference between Bradenton and Sarasota and how people from the inside look at it versus the way people from the outside look at it. Why don’t they work better together and why this really is an amazing place to be and will be for the next few decades as the entire culture in Sarasota shifts towards a new generation of doers.
We Always Bounce Around
This is RayDO, and we do bounce all over the place so there might be a few more surprises along the way. You’ll just have to listen in to find out what else we talk about this time on RayDO.
Make sure you grab us on Stitcher and iTunes Podcast app so you can get the newest episodes delivered to your phone immediately upon release.
The listening experience is totally customized and if you have to turn it off in the middle of an episode it will save your place and start it back up from the same place.
Finally, be sure to subscribe to Raymmar.com to keep up with all of our progress and updates about what we are doing.
I Get Down With Chris Brown…
No, not that Chris Brown, dork… this is Raymmar.com after all, not some Entertainment News Nonsense.
Sarasota socialite and party personality, Chris Brown spends about an hour talking to Raymmar about the Sarasota party scene, politics and a little bit of philosophy.
Chris is not big into politics so I challenged his stance and made him a little uncomfortable in his own understanding of the state of our country. He could not fathom why anyone would want to purposefully destroy this country.
Is it really so hard to think that a government would do their best to oppress and control the people of the country? The same thing that has been done by those in power in all structured civilization since the beginning of time.
We discuss these hard issues, as well as cut more than just skin deep when talking to Chris about his “Catch and release” program and street reputation. I do have to say that off the mic, he had nothing but nice things to say about the woman he was dating and that he actually excited about the future of his current relationship.
I applaud him for that.
So often we are victims of labels that either others put on us or more often than not, we put on ourselves. Stigmas which we allow the world to hold over our heads. Judgments we let the world pass.
We must no longer stand for this social divisiveness. As long as you understand your flaws and work towards strengthening your weaknesses, no one can hurt you or hold you back. No one can keep you from being the best you, that you could ever possibly be. Don’t ever let someone tell you who or how you are supposed to be. You are the only one who knows these things.
Sons Of Hippies Stole My Drugs…
Is the message that sits on the back of my Wacom tablet. Courtesy of David Daly and Sons of Hippies. He gave it to me after one of their performances last year. Since then I have become good friends with the lead singer of that band Katherine Barnes.
In this podcast I interview Katherine about her recent tour across I-10 where she performed 14 times in 16 days. We get in to social issues a bit and the distraction that is social media and technology.
We also give you a taste of the band and their style of music. You will be riveted from the first note, to the very end. #YourWelcome!