In print once a week, online all the time.
That’s what it says, right there on the front window of Weld’s modest global headquarters in downtown Birmingham. We think it’s a fine slogan, not least because, as a lawyer buddy of mine likes to say, it has the added advantage of being true.
Except for the week after Christmas and the last week in June. Those are weeks when we take planned breaks from publishing our weekly newspaper. For everyone involved with the production of the print edition — meaning pretty much every member of our small-but-dedicated staff, but most especially our supremely talented and highly tolerant art director, Traci Edwards — these breaks in the print cycle provide brief respites timed just after the rush of the November and December holidays and just before the busy summer season begins in earnest.
Except for this time. What I mean is that, while there will be no print edition of Weld next week, we’re not taking much of a break. Instead, we’ll be engaged in the final stages of implementing several initiatives that will propel our locally owned and operated media company, Weld for Birmingham, into its next phase of growth.
These initiatives will be reflected in the evolution of the paper’s overall design and the presentation of some content, among other areas. Most of these changes will be apparent when our print edition returns to the streets on July 5.
Chief among these is a change in the way Weld presents calendar listings for local events and activities. As part of an exciting new partnership with Birmingham 365 — the free community calendar network operated by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham — the calendar listings that have appeared in our print edition will now be made available exclusively online at weldbham.com.
Our readers and advertisers will be served extremely well by the new calendar system. The calendars at weldbham.com will be powered by Birmingham 365, which currently features nearly 10,000 searchable event listings in the 12-county Birmingham region. The new system will feature added functionality not available through our current system, including the ability of users to enter their own event information. More on the particulars of using the new calendar system will be available on our website soon.
In making this change, Weld for Birmingham is especially pleased at the opportunity to join with Birmingham 365 and its other partners — including the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham — in promoting and helping to implement a unified community calendar. It’s just another small way of encouraging folks to get out and experience every corner of this increasingly vibrant community of ours. Ten thousand things to do, and counting.
What does that mean in terms of what you’ll see in our paper? It means that from July 5 onward, instead of a dozen pages of calendar listings, each edition of the paper will have roughly five pages of “mini-features” on music, food and drink, arts and culture, and other items of interest. These pages also will highlight key events and activities of note, as identified by Weld’s writers and bloggers.
Additional design changes and announcements about additions to our print and online content will be rolled out on July 5 and in the weeks immediately following. Among these is a weekly crossword puzzle, presented by the Sidewalk Film Festival (for which, I’ll take this opportunity to note, Weld is proud to be the exclusive print media partner for 2012). Other announcements will involve music, sports, and arts-related content, including expanded video offerings.
All of this is keeping with the “online all the time” portion of the slogan on our window. We believe in print and will remain committed to it — but from the start, the ultimate goal of our company has been to evolve from a newspaper with a website into a website with a newspaper. Weld for Birmingham was built to catch the wave of a rapidly changing media climate locally and nationally. The moves we are making now and in the weeks ahead are reflective of our efforts to make our company successful in every way.
In launching Weld for Birmingham last year, we adopted a mission that defines success in three ways. First, we want to succeed as a journalistic enterprise, by providing news and information that serves the public interest and good writing on a variety of topics. Second, we want to succeed as a business, meaning that we want to be profitable while also providing great service to our advertisers and community partners. And finally, we want to be the kind of editorial voice that has helped to bring about progressive changes in government, social relations and other aspects of community life in other cities throughout the nation.
In other words, the mission of Weld for Birmingham has not changed. But, given the shifting media landscape in which we operate — and in which the need for credible, reliable, community-oriented journalism is greater than ever — the urgency of the mission has.
I hope to see you back here on July 5, when we’re back to the business of being in print once a week. In the meantime, visit us at weldbham.com. We’re there all the time.
Mark Kelly is the publisher of Weld. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.