Like fables better than history? Then read ''Rock Soup'' first.
CoastalGuide started in early 1995 as background information about the mainland coastal communities in northeastern North Carolina. It was originally developed as part of a small real estate site and also as pages for a wholesale electrical and plumbing distributor. Both marketed throughout the region. Its purpose and style were very commercial --along the lines of the many (mostly failing) business directories one now encounters on the web.
In late 1995, about 3 or 4 months into the project, it was decided to make a "sea-change" ...writing about subdivisions and construction materials was boring — if the web ever DID become a hit, who would want to visit such a site?......"Water and History" was set as the new theme and the decision was also made to make the sites MORE general-interest and LESS commercial...much along the model of PBS television broadcasting.
Within weeks of this change in style, several local and regional tourism groups approached us and asked if they could participate. At the time, we were having difficulty gathering content so we were happy to have their input. Many of these organizations did not have funding available for advertising, but — having been encouraged to develop public/private 'partnerships' by federal, state, or local governments that funded them — they were willing to do the research and keystrokes in order to gain a web presence. CoastalGuide was, and remains, responsible for generating the revenue needed to develop and maintain the project, which is done through sponsorship and ad sales.
Once the local information started going up on the web, CoastalGuide was drawn sharply toward the tourism industry. We started getting a small, steady, stream of email requesting information about the communities we covered. Within a few more weeks, Claiborne Young, author of the much-respected "Cruising Guide" series of books, sought us out and provided more content about our communities by allowing us to excerpt his books. The scope of CoastalGuide owes much of the credit to him, as Claiborne later made two separate trips to our office to pledge support and cajole us into extending the project to cover the coast from Norfolk, VA to Jacksonville, FL. (We were later overwhelmed in NC, so we pulled back to focus on just the Carolinas.)
Somewhere in this evolutionary process we decided we needed a name, CoastalGuide seemed to work. CoastalGuide.com was later added, as some interior communities well away from the IntraCoastal Waterway asked to be included.
As previously mentioned, the email started to come in — and how !! We had not intended to build a web site used almost exclusively for destination research. Instead, we had envisioned a general"business directory." But there was no denying that our visitors thought otherwise. Requests for information were 99.9% about accommodations, things to do, restaurants, attractions,history, and relocation. In late 1996 we quit fighting the inevitable, declaring CoastalGuide a "Hospitality Industry" network.
Over the following years, we have pioneered numerous innovative development strategies related to this coastal multi-media project while maintaining strong ties within both the public and private sectors. CoastalGuide has received regional, national, and international press coverage and recognition for its efforts in promoting travel & tourism based on history, education, and ecology. CoastalGuide continues to cooperate extensively with numerous regional and community museums, historic sites, and organizations along the coast and, for many of them, it still provides their primary 'official' tourism website. Communities and organizations are still STRONGLY encouraged to help themselves by developing quality promotional content for the network and our visitors.
- update: The internet is now an incredibly competitive place. More & more community tourism-related organizations within the region covered by CoastalGuide are finding that their own independently developed websites do not produce the number of quality leads or inquiries that our network provides. These communities have come to realize that actively developing and managing their CoastalGuide pages have become a ''priority matter.'' In short, they are increasing both the depth and scope of their participation in this coastal network, and using ''regionalism'' to attract visitors. The one caveat is that they develop their CoastalGuide pages with real content for our visitors and not just link out to their own sites.
With several million pageviews annually, CoastalGuide remains well-received by the public as a viable travel & relocation "webzine." It is also a modest commercial success. However, we are equally proud that our sites are currently listed by the NC Department of Public Instruction and the National Science Foundation as educational resources.