Volume 7, Number 27 - September 27, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Happy birthday, Pinedale Online
After nearly six months of work, Pinedale Online went public 10 years ago in September 1997.
Started by Dawn Ballou and Clint Gilchrist with the hopes of creating a site that would share information with both the community and visitors to the Pinedale area, the site originally had no advertising whatsoever and was sponsored by the Town of Pinedale as a type of “online brochure” for the first year of its existence.
“We wanted our Pinedale community Web site to be something different than was typically done by others,” said Ballou, who is the editor of the site.
The partnership, which combined Ballou’s graphic design background with Gilchrist’s computer knowledge (he co-owned Office Outlet and did computer sales and repair) slowly evolved into the Web site that had over 2.4 million page views in 2006. “It was a natural extension of things we already were doing to combine Clint’s computer programming skills with my commercial graphic design and advertising background,” Ballou said. “We felt from the beginning that Pinedale would benefit greatly by having a presence on the Web.”
“Wyoming.com brought Internet access to Pinedale in 1996, and by 1997 only had eight modems, housed in Office Outlet in Pinedale, serving all the users in the Pinedale community,” Ballou continued. “At that time, I believe the statistics were only about 1 percent of the world used the Internet and there were only about two million Web sites in existence.”
“At that time, no one knew how to make money with Web advertising,” she continued. “Businesses didn’t see the value of advertising on the Web and were very reluctant to pay much at all for online advertising. Having a Web-only business was a great way to starve,” Ballou said.
During this period, Pinedale Online was only updated once a week “to change out the picture on the front page.”
“As the needs of the community changed and more private Web sites came into existence, we modified and shifted the things we did on Pinedale Online to better showcase the community and focus on the things we wanted to highlight and the site became more and more dynamic,” Ballou said.
As time passed, other local media and citizens began to submit stories to the site to increase the information on its pages. The site has even grown to include two part-time freelancers, Cat Urbigkit and Pam McCulloch.
Numerous others contribute specific portions to the site, including Dave Bell’s photo gallery and James Rogers’ “Off the Paved Road” site centered around hunting, wildlife and outdoor experiences.
“All of the people who help us do so through telecommunications; sending us information by e-mail, Web tool uploads or text messaging,” Ballou said. “We have a profession that isn’t bound to a physical office. All we need is a computer and Internet access to be able to do our job. We can update Pinedale Online from anywhere in the world.”
“Pinedale Online is very much a grass roots, community-supported Website with many people who contribute things to it all the time,” Ballou said.
As the site grows larger, the need for pictures and stories has grown, and the project has basically become a “full-time” job for Ballou, who said she enjoys the work.
“When you’re building your own business, it becomes your life, not just a job,” she said. “We love Pinedale, the scenic beauty of the area and our rural western lifestyle. We like to write about the area, the people and things happening here.”
Ballou added that digital camera technology has aided in the project, making photography much quicker and less expensive than in the past. “We used to buy film in bulk, roll it ourselves, and develop it at Office Outlet,” she remembered. “Digital images mean we have the photos ready to use as soon as we download them from the camera.”
“Operating a Web site can be done fairly inexpensively, so we don’t have the operating costs that a lot of other media businesses have to deal with,” she said, including that they also don’t have the deadline pressures like many other media formats.
“One of the rewarding parts for us is when people contact us and say they like something they’ve seen on the site or it has helped them in some way find what they are looking for. We get phone calls on a regular basis from people all over the county and e-mails from people all over the world. About 85 percent of our audience is out-ofarea people. Most of those people have some specific tie to Pinedale or someone in the community, so we reach a lot of people who have a connection to Pinedale and use our site to stay in touch with what is happening here.”
Some of the services the site has grown to include are daily local and regional news, local webcams, a business and service directory, a yearround local calendar of events, and weekly updated local gas prices. However, one of the biggest services is that everything is available at all hours.
“Because we are ‘always open,’ we serve as a good local contact for people trying to reach someone or find out something in our area,” Ballou said. “Pinedale Online is open for business 24-hours a day, seven days a week, reaching a world-wide audience. I get calls at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning and 10 p.m. on Sunday night from people wanting to know things about Pinedale. We take calls any time.”
Pinedale Online also supports community and volunteer efforts by donating Web site hosting and maintenance to certain groups and organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Sheriff ’s Office, Sublette County Fair, Pinedale Boat Club, Snow Explorers Snowmobile Club and the Pinedale Recycling Center.
“We have given a number of organizations their first presence on the Web so they could get a start and then move on to their own Web sites when they grew more,” Ballou said. The future, Ballou said, is very open for the site. They hope to continue to grow and add different things to the site as the community changes.
“Pinedale Online serves as a way for the outside world to find out about Pinedale and to connect to local businesses and services in Sublette County,” she said. “We are constantly updating the site and it rates very prominently in the major search engines... we serve as a kind of ‘traffic cop’ to help people get to the things they are looking for the area. Pinedale Online can be found at www.PinedaleOnline.com, www.Pinedale.com and www.PinedaleWyoming.com. All those domain names get you to Pinedale on the Web.”
Ballou stated that another important aspect of the website is to preserve the local history of Pinedale.
“Our stories and photos have been archived since 1999. Once stories rotate off our front pages, they are moved into the online archive, where they stay forever,” she said. “We are creating a permanent online historical record of our community.”
The site has changed and grown over the 10 years, and more and more people are using the Internet everyday.
Gilchrist and Ballou feel even though they started Pinedale Online, it isn’t really just “their site”’ anymore. “Pinedale Online is a collaboration of many people and it reflects the personalities of all those people who contribute to the pieces and parts of it,” Ballou said. “We are very grateful to all the people who have helped be a part of this community Web site these past 10 years, and we’re excited to see what the next 10 years will bring.”
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