THE BEGINNING: PART I
I’m the type who plans a dinner party, and then obsesses over whether anyone will come. So when a good friend and former colleague, Sharon Litwin, asked me if I would help her start a new web site, my first worry wasn’t the obvious one – My God! Start a WEB SITE? Are you KIDDING? Do you know how much WORK that will be? Rather, it was one based on my own particular neuroses: If we threw a web party, would anyone come?
It’s not, it turns out, a bad thing to ponder. One problem with the Internet is that there is too much of it. Anyone can pitch a tent, and, Google and Yahoo aside, it takes luck and perseverance to find a particular address in the wilderness. At last count, there were more than 650,000 individual art blogs on the Web.
We did not need to start another one.
But the concept of a community cultural web site resonated. New Orleans is a quirky place, where people embrace eccentricity and live their after-work hours with exuberance. There is much to revel in here, much to explore, and the idea took root of an online community peopled by the many and varied voices of the city. We’d offer a sort of digital salon, focusing not only on the arts, but also on local culture (with a lower-case c), a place where New Orleanians could meet, discuss, share ideas, be entertained, exchange views, find out about happenings. Besides, with print journalism becoming an endangered species, the move was on to save investigative reporting through online outlets such as Pro Publica, but a similar trend had not emerged for soft news. Having spent three decades covering TV, food, entertainment, home and garden and other under-appreciated but excessively popular feature subjects, I know their impact and importance. Call me the Queen of Fluff.
Still, the best way to start a web site, we agreed, was to begin with an established audience. And the New Orleans Web site with the strongest audience is Nola.com. The site is by far the dominant e-presence in the city, built around the articles, photos and videos from its print partner The Times-Picayune, but also offering an array of interactive features of its own, from user input to Saints updates to hurricane tracking maps. So we approached Nola.com Director of Content James O’Byrne with a proposal for a partnership: We would build a community web site, and Nola.com would serve as the portal to it.
He was intrigued, agreed to consider the idea … and NolaVie was born.