Buffalo.com, a new Web site with a goal of bringing everything about Buffalo to one location on the Internet, is up and running today, giving the city and Western New York an enhanced position on the World Wide Web.
"Everything Buffalo" is the new site's motto and goal, according to Stanford Lipsey, publisher and president of The Buffalo News, which launched the site Wednesday with co-sponsors Adelphia Communications Corp. and Bell Atlantic Directory Group.
Buffalo.com is a "portal site" through which anyone with access to a computer and a modem can find an ever-expanding base of information about the Niagara Frontier and the world.
"I'm hoping that we will create a platform in Buffalo.com that will not only be of great service to individuals in Buffalo, but also put our very best face forward to those people throughout the world that are trying to find out something about Buffalo," Lipsey said.
Buffalo.com will provide for the first time on the Internet, stories, photographs and features from that day's Buffalo News.
The editorial content of the newspaper's morning edition will be available at 9 a.m. With the exception of certain syndicated features, the entire newspaper -- from Tom Toles' cartoons to world, national and local news -- will be available within a few mouse clicks.
The site was officially launched Wednesday evening at a reception in the Harbour Club at Marine Midland Arena, attended by about 400 representatives of various Buffalo.com content partners and guests.
"This gives us another means to inform people about what is unique and great about Buffalo and Western New York," Mayor Masiello said.
"The more people hear, the more they can enjoy and invest in the area.
"This kind of investment gives us a state-of-the-art means to spread our message and can only mean bigger and better things for the future," Masiello added.
John Rigas, president and CEO of Adelphia Communications, said: "The Internet is making revolutionary changes in how we communicate and how we utilize technology.
By giving the community everything that is Buffalo and Western New York through Buffalo.com, we can help bring our community together even more through the power of sharing information.
"I cannot think of a better way to show our appreciation to the entire community than through this exciting new portal site."
News Executive Vice President Warren Colville said nearly $2 million has gone into the development of the Web site, with another $2 million to $3 million budgeted on promoting and advertising the site.
The News made the investment despite the certainty that the site, like many on the Internet, won't make money any time soon, Lipsey said.
"There is no question this will be a money-losing venture in the foreseeable future," he said.
Still, it is estimated that 31 percent of the people in Western New York have Internet access, either at home or work. By 2004, it is projected that nearly three-quarters of all Americans will have Web access.
Lipsey said The News wants to maintain its position as the dominant information source for the area and realizes it must have a stronger Internet presence to do that.
"We have a franchise to protect, and while no one knows what the Internet is going to be in the future, we expect there will be opportunities and we want to position ourselves to take advantage of those opportunities," he said.
The News began planning an online home for its writers, photographers and features in 1996, Colville said.
"We haven't been sleeping," he said. "We've been doing our due diligence on what other people in the country have been doing."
News executives traveled extensively to see first-hand how other newspapers established Web sites, finally deciding on the concept of the portal or community platform site.
Several other major newspapers, including the Boston Globe, the Kansas City Star and, soon, the Washington Post, also have moved toward the portal site concept, according to Randy Bennett, vice president of electronic media and industry development for the Newspaper Association of America.
"Newspapers are looking to expand from providing news and information in the newspaper to becoming the essential gateway to any information about that community," Bennett said.
Their goal, he said, is to "develop a robust information site that is the definitive site for their community."
The first thing The News had to do was purchase the domain name, Buffalo.com, which was owned by a Web page design company in Buffalo, Wyo.
"Whether you're in the market or outside looking in, the name that means the most is Buffalo," Colville said. "We knew we needed to be Buffalo.com."
The News is making that name available to anyone who wants a free e-mail address, which will be available through the site.
Once visitors log onto Buffalo.com, they will see a home page, which will give them a wide array of options to begin their online journey through the Niagara Frontier.
The Weather Channel's forecast for the day is displayed in the top left corner. A click provides the five-day forecast and a few more clicks can lead to more detailed weather information for Buffalo, 300 other U.S. cities and 150 international cities.
In the middle of the main page, the day's top headlines from The News are displayed. A few clicks will allow the viewer to read the newspaper's stories for the day and, in some cases, for the past two weeks.
For those needing News stories further back, The News' library, containing the last 10 years of the newspaper's stories -- some 750,000 articles -- also will be available. Library searches, which provide the headline and first paragraph of a story, are free. Full stories from the archive are available for $1.95.
Also in the middle of the page are headlines from the Associated Press, the world's largest news-gathering organization. At any given moment, the AP's wire contains at least 3,500 stories from across the globe, reporting on breaking news, sports, business and features.
There also are headlines from Adelphia Sports and Entertainment News, followed by a sports ticker updated every two minutes. There also is a ticker for stocks of local interest, with the ability to check any stock listed on the major markets.
Tom Haywood, Adelphia's regional general manager for Erie County, said Adelphia joined with The News and Bell Atlantic because Buffalo.com will help communication with its customers.
"With the publicity we're going to give it, and with The News involved, we feel confident over five million to eight million people will be accessing this page monthly," he said. "And not just in the Western New York area but, we're hoping, worldwide."
A quick connection to Bell Atlantic's Big Yellow service can provide directory assistance for more than 111 million business and residential phone listings in the United States, as well as 3.5 million e-mail addresses.
For some of those businesses, there will be additional information, including directions and hours of operation.
"Bell Atlantic has been a leader in promoting shopping on the Internet through our Big Yellow service, just as we have promoted shopping for over a century here through the Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages," said Mat Stover, group president for the Bell Atlantic Directory Group. "This is a new and exciting way to bring buyers and sellers the best of both."
Click the icons for the Buffalo Bills or Buffalo Sabres and you are brought to the teams' official Web sites. Fans can use that connection to buy tickets online.
Along the left side are a series of topics, including Visit Buffalo/Niagara, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Finance, Education, Family, Government, Health & Fitness, Recreation, Religion, Sports, Travel and Your Community.
The News will provide a central gathering place for local Web sites that pertain to all these topics. For instance, Religion will list area houses of worship and their Web sites. Already, the site lists 53 places of worship. Recreation will host sites for youth and adult recreation programs, participant sports and craft and hobby clubs.
Arts and Entertainment will have subcategories that will link viewers to sites for area clubs, festivals, galleries and museums.
The Government section will include, among other things, a connection to the Federal Executive Board of Western New York, which represents 24 federal agencies with local offices. Many of those agencies, like Social Security, link to their own national or regional sites.
"We know The Buffalo News is only a small part of what people are looking for when they type in the words 'Buffalo.com,' " Colville said. "Our concept was to bring all of these significant entities together, to bring to the community all the information that you'd need."
Colville said there are about 17,000 Internet domain names with locally based addresses, with about 4,000 to 5,000 having "some legitimate content."
Buffalo.com hopes to provide a platform for all of those Web sites, Colville said, and is making it easy for those sites to be listed on Buffalo.com by simply filling out an online form. There is no charge.
Along the right side of the main page are buttons that will provide information on News' promotions, like the Dream Team, as well as the Dine OnLine restaurant listings, horoscopes, local and national lottery numbers and detailed TV and movie listings, sorted by ZIP code.
By Thanksgiving, the Web site also will have a Go Shopping feature that plans to be an online shopping mall, Colville said.
Like the Internet itself, the Web site is expected to grow as more local organizations create Web sites and link to Buffalo.com.
"This is a work in progress, interrupted only by this launch," Colville said.
Staff Writer Tom Ernst also contributed to this article.