Web attracts readers of all kinds

Published 12:47 am Friday, June 29, 2007

Before Thursday afternoon, I had never heard of Wasilla, Alaska.

According to the city’s Web site, the town is known as the Home of the Iditarod and was Alaska’s first Tree City USA.

At 2:53 Wasilla time, the temperature was 64 degrees Thursday with mostly sunny skies.

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And the sun? Well it wasn’t scheduled to set until 11:44 p.m. — about the same time the paper is normally finished every evening in Natchez.

A town of approximately 8,000 people, Wasilla is little less than half the size of Natchez.

And out of those 8,000 people, one person decided to log on to their computer Tuesday to catch 14 minutes worth of Natchez news on the new natchezdemocrat.com Web site.

Now it may have been someone from Natchez feeling a little homesick. Or it could have been a resident who wanted to read up on news from a relative’s hometown.

Or maybe someone was just doing research on Natchez.

Whatever the reason, this person was one out of thousands of online readers who have visited the new site since we it started Sunday.

In fact, in just four short days the Web site has been visited from six continents. We haven’t reached those few residents of Antarctica, yet.

From Baghdad, Iraq, to Sydney, Australia; from Freetown, Sierra Leone to Helsinki, Finland, the new natchezdemocrat.com has offered news from the Miss-Lou to people all over the world.

People from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have logged on to the Web site for at least a few seconds over these last four days.

You might get the impression the new site is being visited by people far, far away from Natchez.

But of all the visitors who have logged onto our site, over half are viewing our site from Mississippi and Lousiana.

Of those who have registered with us, about 72 percent view us from their home or office in the Miss-Lou.

And that is just within the first four days of our new Web site.

But those are just numbers.

Probably one of the most heartening things about our new online edition is how many people have welcomed some of the new features of our site.

Take the memories section of our online obituaries, for example.

Friends and family members have left lasting thoughts and memories on our Web site.

Many who cannot be with their loved ones, separated by time and distance, have left words of comfort.

Small comments about catching a ride with Lavern “Preacher” Brown to football games in Franklin County and watching Water Bynum fearlessly dive off the high dive at Thompson School are just two of the memories that have been written.

Before Sunday, readers were unable to leave these heartfelt thoughts that add to the stories of the many wonderful people who live and work in our area.

Like the memories feature, many others have left their opinions on some of the hot button issues facing residents in the Miss-Lou.

We now offer a forum for conversation and debate for our readers at the end of each story that is published online.

To post messages in our comments spaces, you must register with a valid e-mail address and a small amount of demographic information. Registration is free.

Those are just two of the features we offer on our new Web site.

There are many others, including our lists of most read stories and most e-mailed stories.

The Web site is just beginning. Other than a few hiccups when the site was brought down by a flood of early morning readers Tuesday, the transition has been smooth.

And this is just the beginning. There are many more things that we have in store for our online readers.

If only we had more sunlight hours to work with each day. Too bad we are not in Wasilla, Alaska.

Ben Hillyer is the web editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.