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First birthday for e-KNOWPosted: July 6, 2012

On July 6, 2011, East Kootenay News Online Weekly (e-know.ca) went live.

In our first week of business we published 17 items (stories and/or photos) and began the never-ending process of gathering news and information for the purpose of publishing in our online-only newspaper/magazine.

The only people who clicked on our new website were friends and family and we began another never-ending process, building our readership. At the same time we opened, we embarked on our social media campaign – with Facebook and Twitter. We had zero ‘likes’ and zero ‘followers.’

The business plan that I devised while taking part in an excellent small business preparation program offered by Community Futures East Kootenay was, after week one, an obviously flawed and stupendously optimistic document. We quickly learned that it is not easy convincing advertisers to take a chance on a new product when readers were a premium, especially when the new product is an entirely new and different approach to delivering community news.

The tactile paper product, and the comforting instant recognition people realize when they look at a newspaper or a magazine, wasn’t there for advertisers, or readers, to grab hold of and embrace.

Hence, we have been on a year-long march designed to let people in the East Kootenay know we are here and we offer an alternative media source from the traditional.

From the seeds of a website patched together on the cheap and 17 initial stories, read by only a few fine people, e-KNOW has grown by leaps and bounds.

As of today, we have published 2,015 items since we began and our readership has grown from Carrie’s wonderful, happy like-clicking Mom Velma and a few good friends to more than 42,000 unique visitors, making 80,675 site visits, who have combined to give us more than 235,000 page views. Additionally, we have 4,000 email newsletter subscribers, 655 Facebook likes and 643 Twitter followers. Our Facebook reach has gone as high as the 24,000 person range (it’s currently a touch over 5,000) and we are gaining readers at a seemingly incremental rate.

It’s safe to say that we are now in the discussion when people talk about media in the East Kootenay. And we thank everyone who has clicked aboard and checked us out.

The feedback has been wonderful and the response has been often overwhelming.

I never dreamed that after our first year we would be flirting with a quarter of a million page views. Those are the kind of numbers advertisers wanted to see or know about when we began, so our first year has been a great success in that department.

That said, we wish to acknowledge and humbly thank our advertisers who have shown belief or taken a chance on us. We know we are an affordable alternative advertising source and the ‘one click’ option afforded by online ads, taking people to websites or flyers that offer far more information than any single, tiny one day or one week newspaper or magazine ad provides, is something more and more people are cottoning onto.

Like any newspaper, advertising is the lifeblood and allows us to do our job, which is to cover the news and events in our region and provide a daily glimpse at life in our region. So to those who have endeavoured to help us do our work, we salute and thank you. And if you’d like to advertise, give us a call!

And don’t forget that we offer free classified advertising! With the ever-increasing traffic we are getting, try us out if you are selling something. What the heck? It’s free!

A community newspaper is not doing its job if it is not providing a voice or a forum for not-for-profit organizations and community clubs, and we’ve had an amazing buy in from groups from all around the region, that have been submitting press releases and advances of upcoming events. We thank everyone who has taken the initiative to become included in e-KNOW and continue to invite all regional groups and clubs to consider us when you are trying to get the word out. We offer a 25% discount on ads for small not-for-profit groups and there is no charge to submit a press release or event advance. We also appreciate the invites to community events and will strive to make as many as we can again.

Speaking of a forum for voices, e-KNOW is proud to have assembled the finest group of talented writers and photographers, not just in this region but possibly in all of British Columbia.

One of the shining highlights of this year has been meeting and engaging with contributing writers and photographers, whose help has been GREATLY appreciated.

Every good community is a conglomeration of a diverse range of voices and views, each deserving of being heard and acknowledged. And the East Kootenay most certainly fits that observation.

We’ve been lucky enough to find amazing souls in each of the four main coverage areas and we are finding more all the time.

And I truly love the range of voices we have at e-KNOW.

From Bob Ede’s backcountry ambling and rambling to his awesome feature presentations, to Gerry Warner’s sometimes prickly and always pointed Perceptions, to Niels Kunze’s precise contemplations of our changing world to Anne Davis’ sage advice and brilliant tips, to Larry Halverson’s earthiness and educational benefits, there is something for all tastes.

If that isn’t enough, there is Shawn Parker’s stunning photography, Mary Giuliano’s takes on what is happening in Fernie, Stephanie Stevens’ heart-on-her-sleeve, social ‘poetry’ to Deb Elliott’s brave battle against the evils of nicotine. Or Janine Toms’ jaunty travel tales, Erika Baltrus’ witty and satirical observations, or Tanya Laing Gahr’s knee-slapping hilarity, or Derryll White’s involving book reviews, or Bram Rossman’s awesome photography, or Miranda Holmes’ well-researched and informative pieces – we believe we have established a great writers’ village for hungry readers to enter and become either lost in, or informed from. My scorched melon is telling me I have forgotten someone and if I have, deep apologies.

We’re soon going to be introducing new talents to the fold, including Carol Gordon, David Savage and Chris Botterill, and several others are lingering in nearby shadows contemplating a climb aboard. Don’t be afraid. Speak out! Share your wisdom, advice, sense of humour or observations. We welcome any and all voices and artists.

In keeping with ‘what’s new’ – we are also launching an events calendar, as well a community announcement page (weddings/engagements, births, obituaries, anniversaries and special occasions/events) in the next few weeks.

Speaking of Chris Botterill, I would be sorely remiss if I did not shout THANK YOU at the top of my lungs to the owner of Genex Marketing, who has been our computer guru and recently redesigned our entire look and website and we think he and his crew did an amazing job. Without Chris’s patient and unbelievably unsmug (this ain’t yer normal propeller head folks!) demeanor, it is odds-on-likely that I would have shot a computer by now. Did I mention I hate computers?

Chris keeps computers safe from me and there better be special karma in computer geek heaven for him.

And speaking of someone keeping computers safe from me, I wish to thank my partner Carrie who has carried us over this year and has kept her boot in my arse. Simply put – no Carrie, no e-KNOW. Her love and support and sometimes gentle, other times firm directing has kept me focused, likely out of trouble and, most importantly, even enough that I haven’t gone Canadian psycho on our aging PCs.

Symbolically, while I was writing the above sentence, Carrie stomped into my office toting a large white box with a picture of a spiral universe on a computer screen that has an Apple below it. No more with the patchwork, back and forth between computers and storage devices; no more with wild random bizarreness borne by impish demons living within computers hell-bent on pushing me into a froth of shrill lunacy. Ah, a nice new Mac to work on. Sweet – that ought to help keep me productive.

I am certain the 2,000 plus items we published in the past year will become a figure I will look back at and laugh about. We get more submissions, more buy in and more support every day. I view the building of e-KNOW like someone building a ship. Each day a few more rivets. One of these days, she’s really going to hit the waves with a head of steam!

We love what we are doing and we love that so many people are enjoying what we are doing. It’s all made so much easier by the fact we are doing this in the East Kootenay.

We set out to produce an environmentally-friendly product that is, quite frankly, the future of news presentation.  Since I began covering the Regional District of East Kootenay in 1991, for an Invermere newspaper launched by Bob Ede’s ma n pa (Belle and Ron), and another B.C. newspapering legend, Winn Weir, I have believed in a region-wide product. It was obvious to me after just my first RDEK board meeting (chaired by Ron Tarr and yes, that does make me old) that the Elk Valley, Cranbrook, Kimberley and the Columbia Valley, are intricately linked – which is why together they are part of the RDEK.

Like any four siblings, they are the same but delightfully each unique and this past year, where we’ve met hundreds of people all around this region, that sameness and in the same breath, differentness, has been evident enough to assure me we made the right decision to cover the entire region.

I lived in the Columbia Valley for almost two decades and loved it like no other place. It struck me the other day, when we drove back from covering Elkford’s Wildcat Days, how much I truly love this entire region – each town, each small community, each nook and corner and yes, even you Cranny – is the best place in the world to be. This past year has been an honour and we are humbled and grateful for all the support and kind comments and faith shown in us.

We intend to continue to provide old fashioned journalism in the new frontier – uncut and unfettered by the greasy mitts of the manipulative – with plenty of good old fashioned community goodness, need-to-know information, arts and entertainment and just enough spice and flavour to keep us interesting on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading and cheers, here’s to another amazing year.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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