New Web site connects Vermont teens (4/15/10)

April 15, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

With hip-hop beats thumping through the Showcase Lounge at Higher Ground on Friday night, dozens of teens and young adults crowded in front of the stage, where DJ ZJ of the Lab worked a set of turntables.


    Courtesy photo by Ali Desautels
DJs from The Lab play music at the launch party, held Friday night at Higher Ground.

The crowd had come out to the South Burlington venue for the launch party of, a new Web site aimed at Vermont’s teens and young adults. Williston Publishing and Promotions LLC, the same company that owns the Observer, put Firefly online in January. Last week’s party marked the first major effort to notify Vermont teens of the new site.

“There were quite a few people there,” said Stephanie Choate, the Web site’s editor. “It was really good in terms of getting the word out.”

Firefly has been in the works for nearly two years, with Williston Publishing organizing focus groups and visiting with high school and college students throughout Vermont.

“We saw a need for a hub where teens and young adults could connect and share information and more about what matters to them,” publisher Marianne Apfelbaum wrote in an e-mail.

The Web site primarily targets Vermonters between the ages of 16 and 19. Firefly visitors are, theoretically, Firefly contributors. Though Choate currently creates a good portion of the content — and at 23 admits, “I was in high school not that long ago” — she also reviews submitted content to ensure the site doesn’t host inappropriate material.

Content ranges from movie and music reviews to high school sports scores to art. A calendar section highlights events happening throughout the state.

“Pretty much everything on the site is a direct result of feedback we got from young adults,” said Choate, who also works as a reporter for the Observer and The Charlotte Citizen, another community newspaper owned by Williston Publishing.

As the Web site describes, “Firefly is a community where Vermont’s young adults can download their lives and show the world more than a thing or two about what’s important to them. It’s a place where they can get local news about people their age and see what they’re up to. … Ultimately, Firefly is a place where Vermont’s young adults can be heard.”

Right now, Choate said, Firefly has a few regular contributors at local high schools, as well as one from the University of Vermont. The students aren’t paid, though Choate and Apfelbaum said the experience of being published can help with finding jobs or internships.

In time, Choate hopes to have teens and young adults generate the majority of Firefly’s content.

“We hope that as more people find out (about Firefly) we’ll get more submissions,” Choate said.

Since Jan. 1, 1,375 individual visitors have clicked on, according to data provided by Special Projects Manager Sue Duke. The launch party, which drew almost 200 people, was one way to spread the word about the new site. That weekend, from April 9 to April 11, 118 unique visitors went to

“(A) great group of young people came out to have fun and celebrate,” Apfelbaum said of the party. “They really rallied around the concept of this Web site and that it is designed just for them!”