What is the point of the Internet? The officials in Washington who commissioned the original research into building computer networks as a glorified system of pneumatic tubes in the 1960s probably didn't envision Facebook. Or Nigerian 419 scam e-mails. Or how addictive pictures of cats with Hitler-style-mustache markings could be. Or the worldwide popularity—998 million hits on YouTube as of December 20—of choreographed horse dancing by a Korean pop star.
For a regional publisher—excuse me, regional media company—the question is more acute: How do you make a technology geared toward global connectivity relevant on a local scale? Our mission—to stimulate and support the creative and cultural life of the Hudson Valley—wasn't formulated with worldwide communication in mind. Going on 20 years now, we've focused on reflecting and amplifying back to the region what we believe are aspects of what happens here, this specific patch of earth and water and air named for an early 17th-century English explorer sailing under a Dutch flag.
This presents some challenges: What to focus on if you can, theoretically, do anything? Want the weather in Beijing? The web has that for you. Curious about Colombian collegiate squash standings? Ditto. Need to buy something? Amazon will help you. And while we cherish our Chinese and Colombian online readers, as well as understand the role of commerce, that wasn't the way forward for us.
Historically, our website was a simple digitization of our print content. We took the articles and photos—which were free anyway—and published them online. (We've been doing that since 1996.) They were there for the wide world and for our neighbors. Along the way, we've experimented with video, tinkered with audio, toyed with user interactivity.
Eighteen months ago, when we revisited the question of what the web was for, we realized the answer was at once simple and complex. First, don't stray from the mission. Second, the digital sphere has a different language than print. What's needed is a translation of Chronogram from ink and paper to zeros and ones. This ongoing act of transformative translation is what we launched in December with the latest iteration of our website.
In development, we kept three words in the forefront of our minds: community, comprehensivity, and curation. These three ideas are the DNA of the revamped Chronogram.com.
Community: Chronogram readers are creative people who participate in, as well as appreciate, the arts. They value a balanced lifestyle, engage in wellness activities, and treasure nature and the outdoors. Food, both eating out and cooking at home, are important. So is supporting local businesses and working toward a more sustainable future. This group is aware of itself as a self-selecting subset of the larger Hudson Valley community. The new Chronogram.com offers this community a chance to engage in a conversation around our content through the following means: commenting, rating businesses, creating personal profile pages and best-of lists to share, and the full suite of social media sharing capabilities.
Comprehensivity: This has everything to do with the leading edge of the site—events listings. Our competitive analysis indicates that Chronogram.com is already the most comprehensive events resource in the region—on any given day, we're surfacing 50 to 100 events from art openings to music performances to yoga classes. We've spent years working with events venues and promoters to build our database and we're updating the calendar with new events every day. And with our new self-submit form, it's easier than ever to upload events. Just fill out a few boxes of info and your event goes live on the site immediately.
Curation: The problem with so much information is that you need a guide to help parse it. An undifferentiated mass of listings is not really useful. So, in addition to the plethora of ways the events listings can be sliced and diced by search—category, date (today, tomorrow, this weekend), region—we're also choosing "Staff Picks" each day from the listings to highlight what's not to be missed. (And as always, the 8-Day Week, our curated weekly e-newsletter of upcoming events, can provide valuable intel on what's happening. It's published every Thursday morning; you can sign up at Chronogram.com.)
Top Five Features of the New Chronogram.com
A database of an ever-changing list of almost 1,000 events, updated daily. You can submit your own, add a picture, comment, recommend, ask for a reminder to be sent to you the day of the event, add events to your iCal, and get directions. On our end, we're curating the list with Staff Picks, embedded video, and links to related articles.
Our hardworking photographers spend hours on a shoot, taking dozens of photos, to get the perfect shot. Sometimes we only run one image from these collections of incredible images. We now have the capability to serve these images online in a neat slideshow application.
On our homepage, we're feeding tweets related to the Hudson Valley—not just our own content—so you're able to keep up with what all of the Twittersphere is talking about in the region. Recent posts included a link to a New York Times slideshow on Wilderstein, Daisy Suckley's 35-room Queen Anne-style mansion overlooking the river; Hudson Valley getaway ideas; and job postings—a real community bulletin board.
Twice a day, we're posting short bursts of content under the Daily Dose header on our homepage. It's our way of keeping readers up to date with the latest news and events. Recent posts announced the sale of Eddie Izzard tickets, profiles of local restaurants and businesses, and reporting on local festivals and holiday festivities. Tune in to Daily Dose for the latest from Chronogram.
All of the above is specially formatted for mobile, with quick links to key functionality: events, horoscopes, Daily Dose, and ChronogramDeals. A cute little Chronogram icon is even downloadable to your desktop.
The title of this column, "The New Face of Zero and One," is also the name of a harmoniously anarchic power-pop song by The New Pornographers.