Three years ago, after months of hard thinking, sleepless nights and secretive days, we launched this website called NEXTpittsburgh. It was early afternoon as I recall and I was in the state store buying wine which, as it turned out, was a very good place to be. Shortly after launch, the site, which we spent hundreds of hours creating, sweating and agonizing over, crashed. Just. Like. That.
Amidst frantic texts, emails and phone calls, I tried to stay calm as I stood in line—with one case of white and one case of red in my cart—trying to get on this site that had overtaken my life and then mysteriously vanished within mere hours after appearing.
And I couldn’t help but think: Could I be in a better place to deal with this news than at a state store?
Long hours later, we (as if I had anything to do with it) resolved the problem and I was at the launch party with all that wine, somehow confident we would find our way.
With the help of a deeply supportive and enthusiastic community, it’s been a wild and wonderful ride ever since. Want to find out how great this city is? Launch a startup.
Now, after 3,600 stories about the influencers advancing this region and the cool and innovative things going on here, we look back with slack-mouthed awe. At this moment, that is. Because the truth is we haven’t had much time to look back. We’ve been too insanely busy. Not only because things move fast in Pittsburgh and there’s a whole lot going on, but also because I was in the dual role of editor and publisher.
That changed six weeks ago when I fired myself as editor and hired the very impressive Ali Trachta or as I refer to her, savior.
You may have seen Ali’s amusing and oh-so-Pittsburgh story which ran in our e-blast on Tuesday. As a result, she felt the welcome of Pittsburghers far and wide (even ex-pats) and she got a big dose of the love in this region for NEXTpittsburgh. She was overwhelmed, just as I knew she would be, and more grateful than ever to return to the Burgh.
With Ali onboard, we’re poised for growth and we are now sending two e-blasts weekly, on Tuesday and Friday mornings. That way you will get more frequent but smaller doses of us per week, making it easier to get to the many stories we publish on technology, arts, city design, innovation, hiring news, events, kids and families, and features. (Not among our subscribers? Sign up here!)
There’s no need to wait for the e-blasts since we publish stories daily by an editorial team that is stronger than ever. We’ve got Jennifer Baron on drums—I mean events and NEXT Up—Brian Conway on City Design, Amanda Waltz on biz/tech, Tom O’Connor on eat/drink and Mike Machosky on Next Wave and features. We have regular contributors like Sandra Tolliver lighting the way.
It’s a great crew, now headed by Ali, who spent two years as web editor of LA Weekly before her role as digital content strategist for seven online publications for the parent company. She knows her stuff and as you have seen, she can write.
Beyond stories, we’ll be doing more events—look for NEXT 3 Days in Homewood this year—and finding more inventive and fun ways to get out there to engage with our readers and attract more of them.
Right now we are reaching enough unique visitors monthly to fill up Heinz Field—twice. Which would make for very long lines for beer and nachos.
But it’s not just about numbers or we would be doing a cat video of the week instead of NEXT Up. Strike that. I no sooner wrote this than I have to correct myself for this announcement: we’re running our first cat video! Not just any cat video but one about the Colony Café, a charmer of a coffee shop with an upstairs cat loft, the first in Pittsburgh.
My point is this: it’s more about who is reading us, a group of engaged, informed citizens who love their city, 87 percent of whom say they want to be “even more involved in Pittsburgh” and 78 percent of whom attended an arts and cultural event in the past 30 days. Anyone who has been to our events has been impressed with the crowd we draw. Our success is thanks to you.
As we reach this three-year mark—momentous since more than half of all startups fail in that time—it’s time to savor the win, as I have been reminded by the group of incredible women on my PowerLink board.
We’re going to schedule that victory moment, right after the 5 p.m. deadline and before the three events we plan on attending. And when we pop the cork, we’ll look forward to many more anniversaries in this city that’s bursting at the seams with all kinds of happenings, and is fun as hell to write about.
Thanks for all your help along the way and keep those story ideas and feedback coming.
Big group hug,