“On the other hand,” says Lowery, “we had people who wanted to do what we now know as blogging; the here’s-a-window-into-my-world sort of writing.” Lowery says this approach proved successful, and the community blog section, as it came to be called, cut contributors a check based on the amount of CPMs they received. Still, it was a delicate balance. “It was sticky from a trust standpoint for our readers. It was difficult to differentiate to our readers, like ‘hey, this is stuff we really stand behind, and this is stuff unfiltered by us.’” She says the pro-am model is still one that needs to be figured out, and its not as simple as it sounds. “It takes a smart editor to find and cultivate these writers, keep them happy, and put it together in a way that makes sense and gives context to where these voices fit in the community landscape.”

Whatever direction New West goes next, those who have worked on the site care deeply about its future, and will be watching. Weber called New West his “baby,” and Lowery recalled a recent e-mail chain where she and some other New West contributors recalled some of the site’s best moments. It happened when the site’s archives, which had been locked down when the site went dormant, were opened back up. “We had a round robin on e-mail, reliving some of the best things in the archive, and some of the cool and interesting things we had done,” says Lowery. “The site was ahead of its time, and that was one of the things that was difficult to overcome. I hope that it has a next iteration.”

 

Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.