Celebrating LT: Seven Years In The ‘Ville
November 1, 2018 marks seven years for Leadville Today publishing daily online news, serving Leadville and Lake County. It’s been an incredible trip from the very first post back in 2011, to this 7th Anniversary note. And this month, the journey seemed to have come full circle.
It was Steve-my-tech-guy who first helped me launch Leadville Today (LT), so it only seemed right for him to be the one to help bring things to the next level. In early October, I reached out to him, looking to bounce around some ideas about the next steps for LT and its sister news site Saguache Today, which marks its 3rd Anniversary today. We got to reminiscing about where it all started.
By the end conversation, it was clear that timing, schedules and fate were aligning once again. The end result is the new website you see before you today. The LT team was able to pull it off in three weeks by migrating content, upgrading plug-ins, re-designing images and linking-up social media platforms, all of it! As a journalist, I’ve often interviewed people who have made the statement “there are no words to express my gratitude.” These past few weeks have been a good reminder to me of that sentiment. There’s little doubt that the next time I hear – or write – those words, I will think of Steve Miller from San Diego, whom I affectionately refer to as Steve-my-tech-guy.
I first met Steve when I was Public Relations Manager for the Leadville Trail 100 (LT100). The race series was transitioning from their 100% paper applications and registration process, to 100% digital. Yeah, think about THAT! It was 2009 and the staff had little experience about the process of building a website, much less one that would store racers’ registration data, as well as their sensitive credit card information. Eventually, a website developer was selected based on someone’s recommendation and after countless tech-overloaded days, one crash, and plenty of calls from clients with issues, January had finally arrived and we were ready to conduct the lottery process with the new system. Unfortunately, just days before the big LT100 announcement date, the developer sent an unexpected, pricey invoice, which sent the situation into a standoff of wills, leaving the new website hanging in the balance.
It’s here that our hero appears: Steve Miller from San Diego. Steve was involved in the project in a very auxiliary manner, but that also gave him insight into what had been happening and how the new LT100 site – along with all its data – was now being held hostage until the ransom had been paid! In the end, it was Steve who helped get things untangled and rescued the website, allowing the very first digital LT100 lottery process to go off as planned. Those dramatic, tension-filled days certainly demonstrated that Steve was the kind of experienced, even-tempered expert you wanted on your team. And so he was, for a while. Until the new owners came in and, as would be expected, brought along their own tech-team and designed a new website.
We stayed in touch after that, and a couple of years later in 2011 when I created my digital media company, The Great Pumpkin, we re-connected. Steve helped me map out and navigate the back end of a Word Press blog site to create a lean, mean media machine. Leadville Today launched on 11/1/11.
The new LTv.1 work truck was off and running, gaining traction and new readers with every mile it tallied along the information superhighway. During this time, I had also returned to the classroom to re-tool my skill set as a journalist, conquering social media and learning to use those platforms to drive traffic to the news site. Thanks to Steve’s help, and a lot of hard work and dedication, we had built a solid work truck that I was proudly driving around town, gathering news and writing uplifting stories about my beloved Leadville. Since then, Steve has watched Leadville Today grow, eventually adding its sister site – Saguache Today in 2015, which will be undergoing a similar website upgrade sometime next year.
But if the truth be told, Steve’s has been after me for a while to upgrade the LT site. Over these past 7 years, during our catch-up chats, he’d say things like “are making sure that truck has oil in it?” Which, when translated, means – are you updating all of your plug-ins? To which I would respond, oh yeah, yeah it’s running fine, all the while thinking, plug-ins? What are those?
During our next Skype, Steve would say something like, “looks like those tires could use some air.” Oh yeah, I know, I would hear myself say. But I’m about ready to get some new tires, so it’s all good for a few more miles. It wasn’t long before I found myself constantly adjusting my rear-view mirror so that I would no longer see those “Missing 404” broken link messages. I guess I just kinda ignored them. Because, the traffic to the LT website continued to grow. And the business itself continued to grow. But by the end of last summer I had written myself a new goal: Run your business more efficiently. It was my new truth, my clear mantra.
But how? Because even though I’m a writer, it doesn’t mean I know how to develop a complex website. Like most small business owners, website design and development can be one of the most challenging aspects to 21st century entrepreneurship. Finding someone that you trust with all of your data and propriety information to create something that will properly function to meet your business needs is HUGE. In fact, it’s essential, whether you’re selling Mellys or train tickets. So I didn’t take Steve’s advice lightly. But I also knew, that decision would mean I would have to start cleaning out that old work truck, and the garage that it was stored in. Because, after that early October Skype with Steve, the new LTv.2 truck was on order, the upgraded news website was under construction.
I imagine many business owners can relate to the pain of tech upgrades, whether it’s a website or internal processing system, because it means streamlining your procedures, eliminating situations that are not identifying a clear return on investment, and saying bye-bye to some old habits and ways of doing things. It’s not always the sexy side of business, but having been privy to enterprises that don’t take an occasional assessment, I know that oil slick in the garage just gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon there are tools scattered all about the place. Before long, that old work truck will leave you stranded on the side of the road, costing you time and money.
As LTv.2 got underway, my daily “punch list” grew, as Steve would ask “why is the driver’s side mirror held together by duck tape?” Translation: Why is everything bolded on your old site? It was somewhat embarrassing, that feeling like when you have to unexpectedly give someone a ride, and have to move all the crap in the front seat to the back and brush off the crumbs from your latest drive-thru snack attack, in order to secure a safe, clean seat for transport. In addition, there were very few people to blame, because I was the truck’s primary driver. So I had to just keep forging ahead, as we patched up and painting over of all the dings and dents that old LTv.1 had been through these past 7 years. But the end result is worth it.
So consider LTv.2 as Leadville Today’s new work truck. There are a lot of bells-and-whistles on the back end, which we are all learning how to use. And it seems like with each new Skype, Steve will introduce a new feature that I didn’t know about. “Oh that button is for the sun roof” Oh cool, it’s got a sunroof AND I’m going to get better gas mileage – nice! As this new LTv.2 machine continues down the information superhighway, you will see it evolve and change. New pages will be added and changed out. Advertisement offerings will maximize exposure and let readers know what local businesses and organizations have going on in Leadville Today. And daily news will still be posted – if you haven’t subscribed already, you should do so, it’s free.
So take a look around, kick the tires, look under the hood. Because LTv.2 is just as much your work truck as mine. And with a mechanic like Steve-the-tech-guy on the job, this new website is going to be taking us places we’ve never dreamed of in Leadville Today. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Kathy Bedell is the owner of The Great Pumpkin, LLC, a digital media company located in Leadville, Colorado which publishes Leadville Today and Saguache Today. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.