A new Web site for you

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Unlike my Generation Y relatives, I don’t have a page on myspace.com. I’ve never visited facebook.com. Occasionally, when someone sends a link of interest, I’ll watch a YouTube video.

As a young Baby Boomer or old Generation X’er (depending on which demographer is doing the classifying), I’m what they call a “digital immigrant” — one who reached adulthood before the digital revolution. (If that makes me feel old, I can take comfort from another, slightly older group, “digital aliens,” whom the demographers have deemed hopeless on matters technological.)

Digital immigrants, according to the experts, embrace new technologies but with varying degrees of reluctance. As a user, that’s me. But as one who makes a living in the information marketplace, my interest is more than casual. I study closely the trends among information consumers and apply them to our newspaper in considering its future.

Though I’m not among the alarmists who believe the printed newspaper will disappear in the next decade or so, neither am I na•ve. Resisting or ignoring consumer habits is a fast route to irrelevance, if not extinction, in my business.

One trend our newspaper has embraced is the popularity of social-networking sites — such as those listed above — which are among the fastest-growing on the Web. They are popular because people can share information about themselves, instantly and conveniently, with friends and relatives —

and even with strangers who may have similar interests.

The problem with these “virtual communities,” though, is their vastness. One user is but a speck among the millions who use a site.

For the past six months, we’ve been working on a Web site — separate from our news site at www.thetidewaternews.com — to give the people of Western Tidewater, and those who have moved away but retain a fondness for our area, a gathering place of their own. It’s called www.TidewaterViews.com, and we unveiled it on Wednesday.

We invite you to take a look and, better yet, participate by creating a gallery to feature yourself, your family, your organization, your church, your friends, your pets or anything else that’s important to you. The content primarily is photographs, but within a gallery is the opportunity to blog and exchange messages with other users. In the months ahead, we’ll expand the site to accommodate your home videos.

Think of it as a scrapbook that you share with the entire community.

For generations, people have relied on community newspapers like The Tidewater News to share with others exciting news in their lives — weddings, births, academic achievements, job promotions, birthday parties, club and church activities, etc. Nothing makes me prouder as a publisher than to walk into a home and see Tidewater News clippings tacked all over the refrigerator. We will continue to play that role, proudly, for many years to come.

But TidewaterViews.com, if you’re so inclined, removes us as the middleman in sharing photographs and information. With a digital camera and a computer, you can be a publisher yourself. Just add content to your gallery, e-mail the link to your friends and family and have fun.

Steve Stewart is publisher of The Tidewater News. His e-mail address is steve.stewart@tidewaternews.com.