Neighborhood Watch

Matt Broffman’s Bungalower site draws readers by using a straightforward approach to community news.



Matt Broffman’s Bungalower office is wherever he and his laptop are at the moment, whether a park or a coffee shop.

Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

Just over a year ago, publisher and digital media entrepreneur Matt Broffman, 29, created the local news website known as Bungalower. Today it’s drawing 60,000 unique users a month. Here’s a primer on the site (bungalower.com) and its nontraditional approach to community coverage. 

Bungalower is hyperlocal. Broffman is the site’s sole reporter, writer and editor. But he doesn’t cover crime stories, write long features, or practice watchdog journalism. Rather he focuses on straight-to-the-point coverage about what’s going on in downtown neighborhoods. That means stories about restaurant openings and closings, road work, new construction, upcoming community events and the like. “I use the breakfast test,’’ Broffman says. “If it’s not something I would talk about at breakfast with my friends, then I don’t write about it.”

His coverage area is wide ranging. “It’s all about where people travel, shop, eat, play and work,’’ says Broffman, a graduate of Lake Brantley High and the Missouri School of Journalism. The general Bungalower coverage boundaries are east to Maguire Boulevard, south to Kaley Avenue, west to Orange Blossom Trail and north to Fairbanks Avenue. News categories include art, buildings, comings and goings, food and drink, real estate, retail and transit.

Bungalower’s lineup: A recent week included a scoop that the city is towing Uber taxis because they don’t have permits; renderings of the Orlando Magic’s planned entertainment complex; the opening of a frozen yogurt shop; the future of a Lake Ivanhoe observation deck damaged by fire; five townhouses planned for College Park; a worthwhile museum exhibit; and the city council voting to support gay marriage.

Just the facts, ma’am. What’s missing in the Bungalower stories? The obligatory quotes from officials and random residents. For instance, a traditional media story about disruptive road construction might include comments from a business owner, as well as an official from the Florida Department of Transportation. Broffman, on the other hand, cuts to the chase. “In reality, all anyone cares about is that the FDOT is looking to solve problems along this road and here are what the proposals are,’’ he says. Besides, the time it would take to seek out comment can be spent reporting on another story. As for public reaction, he relies on each story’s message board.

There’s a sense of community. While most of Bungalower features original reporting, Broffman also links to other news sites and blogs, or credits them in his write-ups. And readers are welcome to pitch in. For example, in a recent story about the closing of a Thornton Park eatery, the owners couldn’t be located to query about the reason for the shuttering. So Broffman ended his story with this appeal to his readers: “Anybody know what happened?’’ The story’s message board lit up, and 20 readers chimed in with what they had heard.

The site’s revenue model focuses on consumers, not advertising. Access to the site is free. But Broffman offers a “Bungalower Bundle’’ for $9.95 per month that includes gift certificates and discounts provided by local businesses. They get exposure, consumers get deals worth more than $30, and Broffman pulls in revenue. Contents of a recent package ranged from $10 off dinner at The Tap Room at Dubsdread to half-price admission to the Orlando Museum of Art.

Broffman’s office is mobile. You can often find him with his laptop working out of Downtown Credo, the popular College Park coffee shop. He eventually hopes to move into the new Canvs tech hub at Church Street Exchange.

He lives in a bungalow. Kind of. “It’s a one-story small house in College Park. A Realtor would call it a bungalow; an architect would not.’’

* * * * *


Butterbeer 101

If you can’t get enough of the original brew, make your own, or hit your nearest Starbucks.
By Sarah Sekula

Since 2010, when Universal Orlando opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade, Butterbeer has been a huge hit. In fact, about a year and a half after Hogsmeade’s debut, the park had sold 5 million mugs of the popular non-alcoholic wizarding drink. And with the newly opened Diagon Alley drawing throngs, Butterbeer quaffing is sure to skyrocket further.

Universal Orlando

But what exactly is in this heavenly concoction, served warm, frozen or even in ice-cream form? Clearly, it has hints of butterscotch and shortbread, reminiscent of cream soda, but, sadly, the recipe is top secret: Steven Jayson, Universal’s executive chef, won’t even give a teensy clue.

One thing is certain: Butterbeer wasn’t easy to create. Jayson had to get the approval of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and, at the same time, please millions of fans.

So, what are Muggles to do if they can’t make it to Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley? Well, you can try to whip up the drink on your own. Simply Google “Butterbeer recipe,’’ and you’ll find a slew of them. Or, pop into Starbucks, where Butterbeer-flavored drinks are on a so-called secret menu.

For a Butterbeer Frappuccino, ask for a creme Frappuccino base and have the barista add three pumps of caramel syrup, three pumps of toffee nut syrup and top it with caramel drizzle. For a hot Butterbeer Latte, ask for a whole milk steamer with caramel syrup, toffee nut syrup, cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream and salted caramel bits on top. Voilà! You’ll be feeling like the bespectacled boy wizard in no time—complete with a Butterbeer ’stache.

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