This is a just a brief update on the new site we're gearing up to launch: tpmcafe.com. We've been doing various sorts of planning for this new project -- some figuring out money stuff, but mostly just thinking through how to design the site to make the content and discussion areas compelling to readers. And in the course of thinking through both of those parts of the equation I finally decided that I would actually take the plunge and hire a real live bona-fide paid employee.
Now, that may not seem like such a big thing. But you have to understand that this site had been around for about three years before I decided to hire myself as a paid employee. And that wasn't anything I'd ever planned on doing. Actually, and you'll have to pardon my getting a little nostalgic, but some of you might get a kick (or, admittedly, perhaps a laugh) about what this site looked like when it first went live in November 2000. All the old material has been reformatted into the new design. That's what you'll find if you look back into the archives. But the actual design at the time looked like this --- a thin white strip of text against a background of blue, the archeo-tpm, you might say. Over the years, I slowly gave way to adamant and sometimes pointed reader pressure for widening the text area until it ended up as it is now.
In any case, for the first couple years I did the site, I did everything by myself. Then for each of the last two years it's been me and one part-time unpaid intern, first Zander Dryer and now Avi Zenilman. But the new site is going to include a bunch of new administrative responsibilities. So that's what's behind the decision. A good deal of that will be dealing with the discussion areas where readers will be able to hash out the big questions and challenges the country is facing today. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we're going to try to do a lot more of the tracking of particular stories and legislative issues. More specifically, we're going to open up that part of what this site does to readers themselves.
I don't have to tell you that starting at the end of last year I turned almost all my energy at TPM over to following the Social Security story and tracking just where everyone on Capitol Hill was on the issue. By and large, TPM Readers strongly supported that decision. But in addition to the few who just found it too monotonous, which I can understand, there were others who wrote in asking why there wasn't more attention to all the other important issues.
Now, to me, Social Security was the defining issue of the beginning of the second Bush administration. I think it still is. But the reason I focused entirely on that one issue wasn't simply because I thought it was so important. On a more mundane level, it's just not possible for one person to immerse him or herself so deeply in more than one issue at a time. So one of the things we're trying to accomplish with the new site is to give groups of people venues to dig into these issues on their own as well as to host individual, topic-focused blogs that will zero in on particular issues. (Some parts of the site are going to come online slower than others and I've no doubt that a lot of experimentation and tinkering, much based on your insights and feedback, will be involved.) And helping organize that is going to require at least one more set of hands.
A few times in the past we've had little mini-fundraising drives for reporting trips to New Hampshire and the conventions and more recently for our contest T-Shirts. Next week, we're going to do another big round of fund-raising to put together some start-up funds for the new operation. So we'll be bringing you more information about that shortly.
Finally, we've gotten a lot of emails with questions about the new site and, even more helpfully, suggestions. So please keep them coming. They're very helpful and much appreciated.
More news soon.