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Sep 16, 2009 11:28 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Hamptons.com founder leaves; changes afoot

Sep 16, 2009 11:28 AM

The founder and managing executive of Hamptons.com left the company abruptly this week, citing differences with the company’s majority shareholder about the news and lifestyle website’s direction.

Robert Florio’s departure follows the firing of the website’s executive editor, Christine Bellini, who was replaced late last week by the site’s original executive editor, Nicole B. Brewer.

“Basically, my partner and I had very different ideas of what the future of the company should be,” Mr. Florio said on Monday, referring to Joe Kazickas, who is the majority partner and shareholder in Convergent Holdings, which owns Hamptons.com. “It was a multitude of differences about how media operates in this region. You will see a change in direction of the site in the next few weeks, I think. The audience will decide if that’s good or bad.”

Ms. Brewer said on Tuesday that the website will continue to cover local news and sports as well as social and cultural events on the East End.

“Our coverage of all areas will continue,” she said. “We are discussing changes in editorial content as we speak. We are looking forward to a site that will grow and evolve and continue to embrace everything we love about the Hamptons.”

Ms. Brewer was previously editor of the site for four and a half years, starting in 2004.

Mr. Kazickas would not comment on the changes afoot. “We’re going to look at everything,” he said. “We’re just moving ahead. We’re going to continue to build the platform we have out there as the world’s doorway to the Hamptons.”

Mr. Florio founded Hamptons Online in 1994, the first internet service company on the East End, and launched Hamptons.com as an internet directory in 1995. In 2000, he brought in Mr. Kazickas as the majority shareholder of the new holding company, Convergent Holdings, to raise capital to start a telephone and e-mail service provider, Hamptons Telephone. The telephone service ceased operating earlier this year.

In 2006, the Hamptons.com website morphed into an online lifestyle publication, featuring event listings, coverage of local arts and social life commentary. In 2007, with Mr. Florio as the driving force, the site expanded its small staff to include reporters and added news and sports coverage. Earlier this year, Mr. Florio also helped launch a print magazine, Hamptonian Magazine, and also had an agreement to manage the content of another website, NorthFork.com, which has reverted to its former design since Mr. Florio’s departure.

For years, Hamptons.com was the most visited of several websites dedicated to news and events on the East End. But in August, the leading website traffic tracking service, Quantcast.com, showed that 27east.com, the website operated by the Press News Group, which publishes four editions of The Press, leaped ahead of Hamptons.com in user traffic, and that Hamptons.com had seen a substantial drop in visitation in recent months. The service reports that from August 16 to September 14, users visited 27east.com an average of 7,600 times a day, and visited Hamptons.com 3,100 times.

Neither Mr. Kazickas, Mr. Florio nor Ms. Brewer would comment on whether the traffic reports had contributed to the executive changes at the website last week.

Mr. Florio says he remains a major shareholder in Convergent Holdings. What that means as far as his involvement with its primary assets, he said, remains unclear, even to him. Mr. Kazickas would not comment on his business relationship with Mr. Florio going forward.

For his part, the entrepreneur says he plans to remain in the digital media business on the East End.

“I’m not going away,” Mr. Florio said. “You haven’t heard the last of me.”

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As a local vendor whose done work for this company but hasn't been paid, (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) I for one, don't find this shakeup surprising. Perhaps new management will do some good.
By mariner11968 (1), Southampton on Sep 16, 09 2:45 PM
All I can say is 27east has a much better layout, it much easier to navigate, and just looks better overall (although the javascript menus break viewing on my E63)

Hamptons.com did have some interesting articles, but you had to dig for them.

Doesn't matter who is reporting for them if you can't present the information in a clean and easy-to-read format. Look at the front page of hamptons.com now.. Could they fit anything ELSE on there?
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Sep 17, 09 9:14 AM
Getting page views is NOT easy. It takes work, fellas.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 17, 09 12:18 PM
I suppose reporting on a management shake up is news, but your journalistic integrity went out the window when 27east entered into your story. Nice jab, but so obviously self serving. I'm surprised the story didn't make cover page in the paper. But wait! You figured out a way to do that also! Ahh... the power of the press to advance an agenda, it will forever be abused.
By hamptonguy (1), East Hampton on Sep 17, 09 3:56 PM
Hamptonguy, I think it's a fair story. Hamptons.com was/is a big name and pioneered much of the digital Twin Forks. Their move to be a web-only paper was/is bold; their chief news competitor -- 27east. It's a story about new and emerging media. In a few years, a handful of news-type sites will represent this part of Long Island. Which survive is an interesting soap opera.
By Mr Suffolk (113), Twin Forks on Sep 17, 09 4:24 PM
27East just produced a better product
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 17, 09 6:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
27 east is a gossip-monger's wonderland... that's the only reason it's beating hamptons.com, they were the first to allow comments on articles.
By eagleeye (82), Sag Harbor on Sep 17, 09 9:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
27east - 1.41mb 2.29s page load
hamptons - 2.42mb 5.42s page load

I think there's a little more to it than gossip... Loading all that annoying flashy-scrolly stuff, aside from being generally annoying makes the page load over twice as long.

Sure, the average Joe would have no idea what is going on, but anybody that develops for the web knows the statistics and long page loads lose pageviews.

I think hamptons is primarily an advertising media first, news second. 27east ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Sep 18, 09 9:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
Lots of people hadn't been paid. There was a long history of dishonesty. Hamptons telephone went bankrupt. This is for the good. Perhaps Florio wont be back. It's a small community and he's burned a lot of bridges.
By EastEndDenizen (3), East Hampton on Oct 9, 09 9:23 PM
Nicole was not the original Editor of this site. I agree with Joe in that the site has not been well directed since its' original inception. Originally, the visual elements were uncluttered and easier to navigate. Also, the original design parameters for content were not burdensome. Sometimes less is more.
By MMM (1), Southampton on Feb 23, 10 7:27 PM