Tag Archives: website

Today's goal: let more folks know we exist

I got a message via Facebook this morning (around 1:15 a.m.) I fired off a response by 1:35 a.m. because I thought it was the right thing to do. That’s the weird thing about running this blog – you want to connect with people as soon as possible because you think it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t, you find that some folks think that you’ve slighted them or don’t want to talk with them.

If you have a blog you have friends who think that everyone knows who you are because of it. I know better and am quite happy when I meet someone who has no clue that the site existed before and who are happy that we’re here. That said, I’d like to spend some time connecting with all of you this morning because it’s the right thing to do.

We need your help to get the word out and to share the voices of Birmingham.

First, an introduction to new readers (and a more succinct version for long time readers) explaining what we are. We’re a blog – hyperlocal is the term that’s thrown around a lot (or citizen journalism) – about Birmingham, AL. The goal is to be a site that can reflect some of the personality and many of the voices of this fair Magic City and its surrounding area while covering news, arts, culture, opinion, a pending comic strip and maybe even sports (read: UAB, Miles College, Birmingham Southern & Samford – NOT Alabama or Auburn) if we can find the manpower to do it. I say we because we’ve had as many as twelve and as few as two folks contributing stories to this site since March 2007.

We are one of the oldest hyperlocal blogs in the Southeastern United States, coming into existence shortly before the launch of Consuming Louisville in Kentucky in 2007 (and I’d love to meet Michelle Jones one day soon). Every once in a while we hope that Stanley Holditch may get the feeling to write a Birmingham-centric article on the Fleabomb.com website, but we don’t think that’ll be happening soon.

We’ve averaged 9,000 unique visitors to these pages a month with very little advertising save for the occasional mention in the paper, a lucky tweet or two and our initial following on MySpace. The thought was simple: there are a lot of voices in this city, whether they be about music, politics or food. The hope was (and remains) that we can occasionally remind you that they’re here and waiting for you to explore. We’ve also started a weekly conversation on Twitter on Tuesday evenings called #bhamchat and we look forward to finding ways to get more folks that don’t use Twitter involved in the near future.

So why write to you this morning? I’d like to throw down a challenge to metro Birmingham. I need you. I need you to submit story ideas by either using our story submission page (as soon as it launches this evening) or via email. I need you to lend your voices to the conversations that happen on and offline. I need the help of those that read this site to tell others that we exist and we need their voices. If you’re a fan of The Terminal on Facebook or a follower on Twitter, let your friends know about it and let’s see where this conversation can take us.

If you have a few dollars that you can spare (or a coffee habit you’d like to kick or even an urge to fight a craving for a special dog from Pete’s), we’d love if you would consider becoming a voluntary supporter of  The Terminal or consider purchasing a shirt from our store on Spreadshirt.

Most of all, if you want to lend your voices in a more recurring way, our next contributors meeting will be this Thursday, August 6, starting at 5:30 p.m. at Shift WorkSpace. It’d be nice to get folks that can tell stories in the way they feel most comfortable.

I’m not one that particularly cares about tracking numbers, though I know it would demonstrate to others just what we’ve been able to do so far and help us reach more people. I have a selfish goal of seeing if we can get more than 1,000 people to follow us on Facebook and 2,000 to be following us on Twitter before the end of the day. I don’t have any prizes to provide; just the promise that if you help us spread the word, The Terminal will be able to do more for you. Maybe this exercise will lead to a couple of prizes coming our way…

The redesign of the site (which should be complete before 5 p.m. on Friday) should also help folks find what they’re looking for, complete with a few surprises.

Thanks in advance and enjoy the ride!

So, why does The Terminal exist?

“Why did you start this thing?” “Why didn’t you stay with your old job while you got The Terminal started?” “Betsy thinks you’re crazy, doesn’t she?”

Those are just some of the questions that I’ve been asked on a daily basis since I decided to take a step back and take a leap of faith. The leap of faith is one that tells me that there are things that can be done with the Internet that were barely imaginable only a couple of years ago, including encouraging a city to dream just a little more than it does now.

BTW – the answers: because it just felt right; it would have never become what I wanted to start out to be without leaving to focus on it; and yes, but not any more than she thought before (and she is supportive).

People have been running community newspapers for years and many of them are doing quite well by focusing on what makes their communities unique. There are a lot of people that do not think of Birmingham as unique and may just want to see things stay the same.

What is new with this form of information, whether you call it a blog, a website, or a hub, is the notion of the “instant letter to the editor” – comments – that allow people to share what’s on their mind and know that it will be seen by those that may or may not agree with you. It also helps that you never have to worry about the top story; different things are important to different sets of people.

It allows people to see some of the things that currently take place in the region, making us unique.

I had a conversation with someone last night that put my whole theory in perspective. I believe that this is a City of Ideas. I believe that everybody in this city has a voice. Very few people actually choose to make their voice heard.

I’m one of those crazy New Yorkers that thinks that even if you agree completely with someone, you need to see what makes that opinion tick. It’s something that I’m sure has driven many of my former bosses crazy. But I think that if you don’t understand where someone is coming from, how can you truly say that you know or understand something. You can’t understand what their voice is trying to say.

The main reason for the creation of The Terminal was to begin to push the envelope of communication and conversation in The Magic City to a new level. I wanted to provide a place where those opinions could be questioned and conversation was encouraged. I hope that this site encourages that City of Ideas to flourish. I want to make sure that people are given a chance to be aware of everything going on before making blanket statements that are not necessarily true of their city, whether they’re from here or if they’ve adopted it as their home.

I freely admit that it’s a limited dialogue (for now) as this publication will stay relegated to the screens of laptops and PDAs. However, it would be great to see that online conversation lead to face to face conversations all over the city. I’ve heard many people say that we want to be world class. I’d love to argue that we already are pretty close to world-class, we just need to make the rest of the world aware of it. We also need to embrace those differences that seem to have divided us for some time now and use them to truly live the dream.

There are a few people I need to thank before we go much farther in this process, Charles Buchanan, Brook Hagler, Bob Farley, Curtis Palmer, John Morse, Chris “Mojo” Denbow, Wade Kwon.

Hopefully starting next week we’ll start demonstrating just how powerful this medium can be in terms of pushing the conversation forward. I hope you’re enjoying the ride so far.

André Natta is the publisher and managing editor of The Terminal. He may be reached either via e-mail at andre@bhamterminal.com or 205.276.6585.