We launched a new website today. People are launching new websites every day, but it’s a big deal for us as a print-focused media company that’s been on the same online platform since 2006. I arrived at the paper last year from a digital startup in a small market that used WordPress and harnessed community-sourced news. I wanted to do the same thing at C-VILLE, but it’s a totally different proposition to embrace digital media trends with a successful print weekly to run. Frank Dubec, our publisher, and I have been working on this site redevelopment since last September, so we’re very excited about today. We hope you will be too. To invoke The Specials, it’s the dawning of a new era.
If you’ve ever been frustrated with our website, you’re in good company. Our staff has been, too. When we decided to redevelop, we thought it would be easy. Copy someone who’s doing it well and don’t spend too much money. Not so fast, my friend. Who exactly has done media site development well? The Village Voice overspent and never made its money back. The national aggregation sites (Gawker, HuffPo, etc.) don’t have to deal with print (or reporting for that matter). The New York Times has 11,000 more employees than we do. The free weeklies of our size have better or worse versions of the same basic design, namely a home page carved up into a gajillion windows that lead to mysterious bits of content (see clatl.com). Add to that landscape the fact that we got price quotes for the build ranging from $7,000 to $65,000. Your sandwich will be either 15 cents or 20 bucks, sir. Hokay. Now slap on top of all that the reality that while readers are moving to the Web for information, print media companies (see newspapers) only make between 4 and 20 percent of their annual revenue through online ad sales.
Ryan DeRose and his company Vibethink—a one-man team when we signed them up, and a five-person shop on the Downtown Mall now—built the new version of c-ville.com. Ryan and Matt Clark, who also worked closely with us, attended Western Albemarle and Nelson County high schools, respectively, so we kept things local. What really sold us on their team was that they shared our ideas about what makes a good local media site, and they cared about our paper’s role in the community. We wanted to make something that was easy to use (for us and for you); we wanted to strip away unnecessary distractions from the content; and we wanted to create a platform that we could constantly modify and improve as things changed. We wanted a site that would show up well on all your devices, that integrated social media seamlessly, and that showcased our photographers and writers.
Mostly though, we wanted something that our readers would love to use. Best Of C-VILLE 2012 is all about the love. Consider the new website our long overdue institutional love letter to you, and please help us make it better by sending your ideas and suggestions.