Friday, May 7, 2010

NorthwestFlorida.com Begins

The Island King and I have owned the domain name NorthwestFlorida.com for many years.

We've planned to use it as a travel site for the Florida panhandle and even though we pull it out and dust it off every couple of years we've never actually done anything with it.

Until a month ago. We decided once again to pull it out, add some content and try to get it rolling.

We started making plans, gathering content and working on a design.

And then the Deep Water Horizon nightmare began.

It was time to put NorthwestFlorida.com on hold again - or so we thought.

We have several photography clients that own vacation rentals here and they started calling us to ask if we were seeing oil on the beaches yet.

The Island King got the idea to go out to the beach, make a video showing that no oil has reached our beaches yet and send it to his clients to show potential vacationers.

And then realized that the easiest way to share that video would be on NorthwestFlorida.com.

So on May 1st we slapped a beach report video on the site and sent links to our clients.

They forwarded links to their friends and before we knew it we had quite a bit of traffic coming into the site.

Hmm.

I originally put the video on YouTube and then embedded it into our site and was surprised at how many views the video got.

So we made another video the next day.

And more people came.

On Tuesday we attended a public forum held by the Secretary of the Florida DEP, Michael Sole, Senator Don Gaetz, our Representative Matt Gaetz, Hope Lanier from BP and Okaloosa County officials.

It was after that meeting that we met Otis Goodson, who gave us a demonstration of his idea to use hay to soak up oil.

It's hard to believe that one video would get as much attention as this one has.

People were seeing the Hay video, which was then leading them to the Beach Report videos and in a matter of moments we went from an unknown little site with no content to a high traffic, much searched for website.

Holy cow. Maybe this isn't the time to shelve the idea.

So we took our video camera down to the docks, planning to tape some fishing boats coming in to show that fishing is still good in Destin.





As we were walking we ran into a Captain getting off his boat and the Island King asked if he'd had any luck.

We had no idea we'd just stumbled upon Captain Scott Robson, President of the Destin Charter Boat Association.

Captain Scott wants to get the word out that samples have been taken from Florida fish and they've all come back clean.


No oil has reached Florida waters and the Federal waters that are closed are not off of Florida's coast. We're still open for business and it's important that we let potential visitors know that.

Farther down the dock we talked to several other Captains who say the water is clean and the fish are here.


And all of them asked us to put that information on our site to help spread the word.

Then the Island King's brother called to tell us he was getting reports from his trash guys that there were dead squid washing up on the beach. Other people were saying they were fiberglass shards from oil protection booms.

So we jumped in the truck with him and rode out to the beach to investigate.


Turns out that what people were seeing were actually the exoskeletons of Sea Butterflies.


According to the newspaper it is unknown why the Sea Butterflies are washing up but that things like this are a common occurrence in the Spring and don't believe this to be oil spill related.

All of this generated more content for the site and when we got home we were really surprised to see that our Hay video went viral and the hits on our website are through the roof.

Obviously, now is the time to bring our site online.

So we've been working round the clock this week, trying to figure out how the damn thing works and adding content.

People in our area are worried. Vacationers have been cancelling reservations, our fishing fleet charters are down and we're all worried about our livelihoods.

Now, more than ever, it's time to get the word out that right now there is no oil in our waters and no reason not to visit here.

We believe that NorthwestFlorida.com can help us do that.

So we're crazy busy.

We haven't even had time to fix the site up and give it a good look yet but hopefully that will come soon.

I keep telling the Island King that our little pig needs a party dress - and fast.

Come over and take a look. She's not pretty but she's ours.
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