Well, here we are, arriving at the place we’ve wanted — and needed — to be all along.
It took a little time. It required trial and error, a good deal of patience and a fair, if fleeting, measure of heartache. But like all good things, it is well worth the wait.
With the launch this week of the redesigned weldbham.com, the feeling in the Weld for Birmingham offices cannot be substantially unlike that inside NASA Mission Control as the first manned space flight pierced the mesosphere. Everything that came before was rendered pale, a prelude to possibilities that suddenly seemed limitless.
If that seems a little hyperbolic…well, I can hardly help myself. A dynamic, user friendly website that functions as a full-fledged blogging community is central to our founding mission of building a media company that is the premier source of substantive news and useful information about Birmingham. It is only now, with the added functionality of weldbham.com, that we are fully positioned to fulfill that mission and achieve the goals we have set for our company.
What are those goals?
First, we want Weld for Birmingham to succeed as a business. This company is an entrepreneurial venture, supported by local investors who, like our management team and our employees, are dedicated to the proposition that turning a profit is important, but that business success is also defined by the way business is done. Over the past 14 months, as we have built a strong and growing base of advertisers and worked with various partners to develop other revenue opportunities, we have established a reputation for honesty and integrity that we believe will help pave the path for our continued success.
Second, we want Weld to succeed as a journalistic endeavor. That means providing high-quality, public-interest journalism and serving as a forum for good writing on a broad range of topics. Both online and in our weekly print product, we are committed to continued evolution as a model for how quality journalism can be encouraged, nurtured and sustained for the future — both through proprietary material produced by Weld staff members and contributors and through content generated by independent writers and bloggers who take advantage of the forum we offer through our newspaper and our blogging network.
Another component of our model for journalistic success is finding innovative ways to partner with other local media outlets to enhance both the quality and quantity of news and information that is available to the public at any given time. The new multimedia partnership between Weld for Birmingham and CBS 42 is the flagship of this approach, in which our two companies will not only cross-promote each other’s products, but also co-report major investigative stories and share selected content.
Third, we want Weld to succeed as a force for progress in Birmingham. Another way of saying that is that we don’t want to just report the news, but also to play a lead role in identifying the issues and opportunities that face Birmingham, and in formulating and executing a community agenda. Yet another way of saying it is that Weld aspires to be something that Birmingham has never had — a strong editorial voice for progress.
This last, of course, is more important now than ever, made so by the fact that Birmingham is a town without a daily newspaper. This is thanks to Advance Publications, the New Jersey-based media conglomerate that owns the thrice-weekly Birmingham News and the website al.com. Advance’s bid to become a “digitally-focused” company in Birmingham and other markets has involved several rounds of mass buyouts of some outstanding journalists, graphic artists and other employees — as well as in other decisions and actions which indicate that the company’s only real interest in the communities in which it operates is pecuniary.
Not so with Weld. As noted, we are locally owned and operated. Unlike our competitor, we are an entrepreneurial venture growing our way to profitability, rather than trying to cut and reconfigure our way there. We believe that what is good for Birmingham is good for us — and, equally, that the success of our enterprise and others small businesses like it bodes well for the health of our city. We want to grow with Birmingham, not at Birmingham’s expense.
Which brings us back around to the “new,” or at least vastly improved, weldbham.com. By putting in place this last, vital component of a fully integrated print-online hybrid media company, Weld for Birmingham is completing the foundation from which our readership and user base will continue to grow, and positioning ourselves to take full advantage of transformational changes in the gathering, presentation and consumption of news and information. We’re staking out a place at the forefront of journalism’s future.
In addition, weldbham.com — working in conjunction with the established popularity of our weekly newspaper — will deliver increasingly valuable services to our advertisers. By integrating real-time advertising and social media-driven marketing opportunities, and leveraging our strategic partnerships with other media outlets, Weld will continue to build into our advertiser relationships a value that goes far beyond the appearance of an ad in print or online.
I think I might’ve mentioned this already, but we’re excited — about our future and Birmingham’s. If you’re reading this, I hope and trust that you are, too.