Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ten years: casting an ever-wider Net

Ten years ago, OOIDA had 39,000 dues-paying members, and our surveys told us way less than half had access to a computer and a few still thought a mouse was something you caught in a trap. But in the fall of 1997, OOIDA and Land Line Magazine made a major leap into the electronic communications era by launching two new sites on the World Wide Web.

We saw it as an investment in our future and something that would become an around-the-clock opportunity to communicate with truckers, both members and prospective members.

The project was assigned to John Siebert of the OOIDA Foundation. The news content of the Land Line Web site was my charge. I remember OOIDA’s Rick Craig, Siebert and I speculating ambitiously that maybe we could get 1,000 visitors a month. That was our goal.

We got the domain name for ooida.com but could not get landline.com. Some other dude had bought a bunch of magazine names anticipating they would eventually go online. He wanted a lot of money to sell us the site name. We told him to shove it and registered as landlinemag.com.

Our plan for ooida.com was to provide news, information, resources, tools, legislative updates, info on OOIDA’s benefit programs and even an online membership application form. For landlinemag.com, we kicked off with breaking news as it occurred in between issues of Land Line Magazine. At first, we provided only a few stories each week. Land Line’s daily news is now one of the best trucking news sites on the Internet, giving you your trucking “front page” every business day.

Right off the bat, a steady stream of truckers tapped in. Our Call-to-Action posts began to prompt overnight action from truckers, action we could not make happen by snail mail.

Siebert designed the first OOIDA Web site. Debbie Johnson, Land Line Magazine’s art director, designed the first Land Line Web site. Within the first two years, Rex Rains, who began with OOIDA as a PC tech, took over as Webmaster and he’s been at it ever since. Rex is part of the OOIDA Communications Department, headed up by Donna Ryun, who writes regularly for Land Line Magazine.

Ten years later, the success of these Web sites is astounding. Our LL Online Editor Aaron Ladage reports that landlinemag.com gets about 10,000 visitors a day, mostly there for the daily news and special reports written by the Land Line Magazine’s news staff. This summer, we had more than 300,000 visitors in July alone.

OOIDA.com has big traffic, too, bringing in more than 6,000 visitors a day. Still manned by Rex and Donna, they have help now from Jill Sheeks. Donna reports that currently, the “most viewed” Web pages at ooida.com are the State Legislative Watch pages, produced and updated daily by State Legislative Editor Keith Goble. It’s good to know that trucking readers are so keen on what their state lawmakers are doing.

We now have other Web sites, too. “Land Line Now,” OOIDA’s radio show on XM Satellite Radio’s Channel 171, also carries the daily news. The radio show’s Web site at landlinenow.com includes a “Heard on the Air” index that is updated daily by Mark Reddig and the radio gang. Ever listened to the show and heard a Web site mentioned or phone numbers and can’t write them down? Go to “Heard on the Air.” You’ll find that info and much more.

OOIDA also has several specialty Web sites like ooidapac.com and a Web site called turndownhotfuel.com. Truckvote.com is another, and we are getting ready to market another exciting Web site featuring your photos and videos of life on the road.

Happy tenth.