by Timothy Rutt
One of the best things we did last year was repaint the exterior of our home. We were refinancing, and advised that it would make a big difference if we spruced up the exterior.
Well, it ended up being more involved than just a new coat o’ paint (we had to rebuild the deck, too), but in the end, it looks like a different house and it makes us smile to look at it still. Everything needs some work done once in awhile.
It’s time to refurbish Altadenablog, too. We started this website six years ago as an experiment, building it on the canned structure of our provider, Typepad. It’s turned into a strong horse, creating something entirely new for Altadena, a dedicated source of local news that this community hadn’t seen in years. We’re not only proud of what it’s become, but grateful to be in a community that makes it possible.
But we’ve been feeling the limitations of the Typepad format for awhile. The blog format -- where new entries push down older ones -- offers timeliness, but timeliness isn’t the only value in news. Many times important stories, which would be on the front page if we were in print, got pushed down by a lost dog notice (and we LOVE doing lost dog notices -- we reunited two dogs with their family Thursday -- but sometimes other things, affecting more residents, need to stay at the top for the day). The blog format doesn’t allow us much leeway in prioritizing stories. The format is also rather primitive on graphics, and doesn’t really handle .pdf documents, which are increasingly used as a way to convey information. We’ve stretched our current format to its limit and it’s been creaking for awhile.
Another concern is that the current format is not mobile-ready. More people are going to be reading news from their phones or tablets than from their computers in years to come, and we need to be ready for that.
Also, it restricted what we could offer our sponsors: ad rails on either side with a uniform ad size, and not many options. We need to be able to offer more to them, so that they can get their message to you, their customers.
Finally, the “blog” name. Altadenablog was a great name that said it all, but in the six years since we started, “blog” has kind of settled into a term used for personal writing on the internet. People blog about their cats, or their politics, or their hobbies. A news site such as ours, where opinion is not a big part of it, is handicapped by being called a “blog.” As well, Google scores news sites ahead of blogs in their searches, and Google thinks we’re a blog. We tried to convince them otherwise, and the argument “it’s not a blog, but yes, we named it ‘blog’” doesn’t put us where we need to be for search engine optimization.
So after about three years of thinking and searching and interviewing, we’re ready for a whole new era for Altadena’s only locally-based news website (actually, with AOL selling Patch to a distressed properties investment group this week, we’re once again Altadena’s ONLY news website).
Sometime in the next few days, we will be powering down this website address and introducing our new website and our new name: AltadenaPoint.
Why AltadenaPoint? We wanted to retire the word “blog,” but not the word Altadena -- it was very important that our community continue to be the first word in the site’s name, because it belongs to all of us, really. We didn’t want to tie the name to any traditional print name, like “gazette,” or “register.” After batting possiblities around, AltadenaPoint made sense. A point directs your attention. It’s a place to go. It’s sharp. These are all things we strive for. It’s aspirational. So AltadenaPoint it is.
(If you go to the site today, you’ll just find a GoDaddy placeholder page. Watch this space to find out when we go live).
(And thank you to Altadena designer Hugo Arteaga for creating our new logo.)
We also have partnered with Locable, an online company that mostly handles websites for local magazines. They have been wanting to provide services to online-only publications like our own, and what they offer comes at a good time for us. They have a good-looking, dynamic format that we think our readers will come to love, and they’re working to find a mobile solution so we can better serve mobile readers.
AltadenaPoint will also have some features that we think will make this site even more valuable to our readers and sponsors:
Calendar: our new calendar format lets you enter your own events.
Business Directory: Something we’re really excited about: users can search to find a local business that they need, and local businesses can create their own entry, telling our readers why they should do business together. (One need not be a sponsor to have a place in the directory).
We’ll be figuring out a lot of this on the fly -- Locable hasn’t really dealt with anybody like us, and we can tell that we’re a pretty demanding client. There’ll be some edges that need smoothing. There’ll be a learning curve for readers, too, as they accommodate to the new format.
We’ll also step up our game for sponsors as well -- we’re planning to run contests and promotions, which will also up our “fun” level.
But here’s what won’t change: we are still the locally-owned business you’ve come to know, and the local news source you’ve come to trust. We’re still running the place, and we still have our commitment to cover life in Altadena in all its many facets -- we’ll just be doing it in a more attractive and up-to-date manner. Locable will be helping us on the technical and sales end, but we’re still calling the shots -- the content remains what you’ve come to expect from us in all these years.
We’re also planning to debut some new writers and features as we roll this out, to make AltadenaPoint a vivid experience of the people and places that define Altadena.
So stick around. Things have just gotten a lot more interesting. We’re very excited about the new developments, and hope you are too.
As always: we love this work. We love Altadena.
What do you think of AltadenaPoint? Let us know in the comments.