Artvoice Publisher Invests in Aesthetics on Web

The breadth and scope of Buffalo, New York’s Arvoice Web site is so immense it seems positively futile to try to encapsulate it. Artvoice publisher Jamie Moses opened his presentation on his paper’s new site at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in San Antonio with a description of what not to do: the “quite ugly” page of a they-who-shall-remain- anonymous daily, bloated with tired ads and cumbersome navigation.

Aside from his feelings about aesthetic bastardization of the Web, Moses believes such sites fail readers (by not publishing the whole paper) and advertisers (rewarding high-dollar, full-page buyers with a paltry banner) alike. To combat this, Moses took the heretofore unexplored route of publishing each entire issue of Artvoice online, ads and all, as a PDF file. So far, the virtual newsstand keeps all involved happy. The paper has been able to increase readership without a larger print run. And with replication of the print edition taken care of, the sleek, content-dense Artvoice site can focus on exciting Web-friendly pursuits.

Less than a month old, complements the print edition with video-based content that can easily stand on its own. Video postcards of restaurants include menus, directions and descriptions. Trailers of Buffalo’s new releases come with reviews and show times. Op-ed and satire clips reflect the issues of the day.

More astounding still is the symbiotic relationship Artvoice has cultivated with many of those featured. Auto dealerships began paying Artvoice staff to make their ads and demos, while video shoots of bands in Artvoice’s own studio increased all parties’ exposure. The Web site, which includes an online radio station, “makes people come back every day, not just weekly,” Moses said.

While the enhancements at may represent the future of alt-weeklies’ Web sites, the endeavor all ultimately ties back to print. For instance, highlighted locales or services could be required to make bigger ad buys to finance the resulting strain on the paper’s resources. Moses doesn’t want to lose sight of what got Artvoice this far. Quite simply, he said, “a newspaper is what we are.”

Wells Dunbar is a production intern at the Austin Chronicle. This story originally appeared in the June 26 San AANtonio Convention Daily.

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