NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The lead story in today's news focuses on a proposal the Legislature is considering that would eliminate the requirement that legal notices be placed in paid subscription hardcopy newspapers and instead have notices placed on municipal websites.
This is an obvious concern to the media who covers New Brunswick and communities across the state.
As owner of TapInto New Brunswick, I recommend that the legislation be amended to require legal notices be placed on online news sites that have at least 100 unpaid subscribers. (Most online news sites have free subscriptions). This would achieve transparency, eliminate the need for municipalities to redevelop their websites to accommodate legal notices, create a level playing field for bidders, and significantly reduce the expense of legal notices.
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Here are my concerns with the proposed legislation:
1) Most municipal websites do not have good SEO (search engine optimization). When someone searches for a given topic area on a municipal website on search engines like Google,Yahoo or Bing, the municipal website rarely comes up in the search. So if legal notices are posted on municipal websites, the only way to find such notices would be to go to every municipal website individually.
This significantly reduces transparency and provides an unfair advantage to large companies who have the resources to visit every municipal website to find legal notices and submit bids.
2) Many municipalities' websites do not have the capability to post legal notices. Such capability will need to be built by the municipality and maintained by either a staff member or a web developer, at significant expense, on an ongoing basis.
Here's why my recommendation is the better solution:
1) Online news sites have excellent SEO so when notices are played on such sites, they can easily be found on search engines like Google and Bing. As a result, there is full transparency and all bidders will have the same access to such notices.
2) Municipalities would simply post the legal notices on online news sites that already can accommodate such notices, without any development cost to the municipality.
3) Legal notices on online sites are significantly less expensive than notices in print, saving municipalities tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Therefore, if the legislation is amended so that legal notices are posted on online news sites, the City of New Brunswick would achieve significant cost savings while increasing transparency and creating a level playing field for all companies and individuals who seek to bid for municipal work.
It is my hope that members of the state Legislature, as well as the New Jersey League of Municipalities, consider this important compromise.