Exciting news: NolaVie, an arts and culture site for New Orleans, will premiere online Feb. 21.  It’s amazing how many meetings, lunches, coffee dates and decisions go into connecting the dots in a project like this. 

As site creators, we have been meeting almost daily with possible contributors and potential partners – everyone from the editor of the local paper to a mover-and-shaker in the marketing world, to a host of 20-somethings who have moved in after Katrina determined to make an impact. We’re even working with fellow New Media Women Entrepreneur awardee Retha Hill on providing content for her black history mobile application. More on that in a moment. 

Pulling together all of these loose threads and weaving them into a compelling tapestry is proving to be part juggling act and part the power of persuasion.

As the site launch approaches, we are collecting names and email addresses at nolavie.com so users can receive word as soon as the site is up and running.  Meanwhile, we have a number of concrete achievements to report behind the scenes.

Partnership with NOLA.com

We are close to finalizing a deal with the Times-Picayune’s website, NOLA.com. A formal letter of intent has been sent from NOLA.com to its parent company, Advance Publications, outlining our agreed-upon partnership with a clear indication of responsibilities and contributions by both NOLA.com and NolaVie. We are awaiting the return of a signed copy.

NOLA.com Director of Content James O’Byrne has agreed to our launch date and is committed to getting our content online giving us blog protocols and limited access to the backend of NOLA.com.

In the meantime, we can start posting and polishing content now, including creative stories, photos, and videos. With this prototype, we can build splash pages to show to potential partners and contributors. The page conforms to the NOLA.com style but we have the latitude to put whatever we find appropriate in the columns. 

We have also been working on our category structures and agree they will refer to format rather than subject matter.  That is, People will contain profiles of New Orleans characters or interviews with musicians, while Happenings will spotlight events, and Viewpoints will offer essays and opinions.

Other Content Partners

In general, we are using a sort of museum model for our content: We envision curated sections, pulled from a variety of sources, overseen by people who serve as “content liaisons” rather than traditional editors.

In addition to the assistant editors, three content liaison positions representing three “constituencies” have been identified:

  • NOLA Art House Music, a group of accomplished young contemporary jazz musicians, will produce a section of the site devoted to contemporary jazz music and the local jazz scene.
  • Pelican Bomb, a group of contemporary visual arts critics and writers, will provide essays and criticism dealing with the local arts scene.
  • The Arts Council of New Orleans, a not-for-profit group devoted to local arts, will oversee local arts events for the site.

Each entity will name a person to be the content liaison responsible for ongoing information within that constituency.

We have also approached and have received commitments of partner support from six cultural organizations.  So far, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation; the New Orleans African American Museum, National World War II Museum, Audubon Aquarium and New Orleans Ballet Association have pledged to be partners.  After we build a page with sample content in the next few weeks, we’ll continue to invite more groups to participate.

After hearing our fellow New Media Women Entrepreneur, Retha Hill, speak at the summit J-Lab organized in Washington in November, we were convinced we had to partner on a project together.  She is launching a mobile black history application that uses geo-location and augmented reality to display nearby points of interest to smart-phone users.  Two Dartmouth College interns spending winter terms in New Orleans will work on compiling our city’s data.  This way, we can help Retha launch a New Orleans version of her app in this city rich with black history.

Staffing

A content editor has been hired and two assistant editors have been interviewed and will be hired by the middle of January.

As Director of Content, Blake Bertuccelli (a web developer and filmmaker who moved to New Orleans from Los Angeles) will be responsible for the day-to-day web development and content. He has almost completed the coding for our submission page, which will be a way for people to contribute content for our consideration. We want both cultural organizations and individuals to send us potential content, and this will allow them to submit articles, photos, photo galleries and videos using a simple fill-in-the-blank form.

Of the two assistant editors interviewed, one is a pro bono position; the other will be paid an honorarium for the work. One of these women is working with the vast New Orleans creative writing community – an audience pretty much untapped by local websites.

We are planning to sponsor a creative writing contest, pulling from local workshops, writing groups and universities, to cull short stories, poems, essays and character pieces about the city and its unique offerings.

The other woman we’ve interviewed as an assistant editor is already working on aggregated content – she’s canvassing local blogs, websites, calendars, YouTube and the like to find both site items for highlights and potential contributors.

Moving Forward

We feel like we’ve done a good job of creating the infrastructure for this website. Now we are busy building our universe atop it, in the form of content providers and partners.

Please visit www.nolavie.com and leave us your email, so that you will be among the first to view our fabulous new community website when it sets sail in February.