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21.06.2010 20:26 - Yet New but Already Popular

David Mchedlidze
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Initially there were no plans about launching an online newspaper, the online version of the Batumelebi newspaper was intended but eventually the initiative was followed by the creation of an independent online edition In addition to news the web site offers its users analytical materials as well as interviews, in textual, audio or video form.

The idea of launching was hit upon in 2007. The Batumelebi newspaper being distributed in Adjara region used to have a web site but it was being irregularly updated. The newspaper editorial staff, hoping to increase the number of the 16-page Batumilebi readers, decided to create a far more flexible and well-manageable web site. With the view of raising funds the editorial staff started talks with the partner organization Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF) but due to the Georgian-Russian August war in 2008 amendemtns were made to the plans of the regional edition - the concept and the function of the future web site has been totally altered.

"The information during the war was so fast-changing that a weekly edition lost its importance. Through our sources we received numerous pieces of information we wanted to disseminate. Therefore we urgently created a blog which gained popularity in a short while. Looking through the statistics we appeared to be having many users from Tbilisi and abroad. They were discontent the Batumelebi was not for sale in Tbilisi. We had no resources to launch a print version. Following a consultation with MDLF we decided to enter national market with a web project," said Nestan Tsetskhladze, Editor-in-chief and project manager, a former marketing manager for the Batumelebi.

Created by MDLF the web site hosting is provided in Germany. According to the editor it's more secure and cheaper to run a website from there. Despite their assistance the Batumelebi was unable to launch the web site on its own expanses due to the deterioration of the advertising market since 2008. Later on the project was funded by the Open Society Georgia Foundation and Netgazeti as an independent edition was launched in 2010. But it remains under the management of the Batumelebi Ltd which, in addition to the web site, owns the Batumelebi newspaper and the tourism web site has a diverse content. In addition to the fresh pieces of information the news outlets offer its users the analysis of the ongoing events. Politics is not separated and it is included in the news. The list of other rubrics includes Economics, Technologies, Law, Comment, Culture and Society. Each rubric, in additional to written material, provides audio and video material. The Interview rubric is separated.

"We wanted to provide diverse viewpoints on our web site, therefore we created separate section for Comments. In addition to posting interviews and video comments on various issues we publish comments posted in other social networks. Ahead of posting we call the author to receive consent from him/her," said Nestan Tsetskhladze.

Netgazeti and the Batumelebi exchange news frequently. There is no Internet available in mountainous regions in Adjara where the newspaper is being distributed. The Batumelebi has got an investigative team. The materials investigated by them are published in the Verification for Democracy rubric.

The web site has got no sports section. The topic is being covered in case of a very important event but they couldn't avoid world championship 2010. With regard to this topic the blogs by famous journalists and anyone willing to cooperate with are being published on the website, following the editorial staff's approval. Video files are being uploaded too.

Due to the lack of resources reporters film and edit video materials on their own. Video files are first uploaded on Youtube and then to the web site. Audio materials are uploaded though Soundcloud which is free and enables users to upload audio files fast.

The online edition cannot boast with its technical equipment. The editorial staff working in two small rooms has got few PCs, two video cameras and two digital cameras of medium quality.

Twelve people including seven journalists, two freelance students, editor, technical director and web developer work for the Netgazeti. All new ideas are being jointly discussed. Notwithstanding scarce financial resources they try to provide users with fresh news.

According to Nestan Tsetskhladze their materials are not targeted at a specific segment.

"Our audience includes all those people being interested in verified and reliable information. I think that was the reason of gaining rating. Reliance to the Batumelebi was evident from the very beginning. To introduce ourselves to the respondents initially we used to mention Batumelebi. We need it less and less now. We gained popularity in a short while," editor of the online edition said.

The number of the web site daily visitors is 600-700 on average. According to the editor there is a sharp rise in the number of visitors when important events are being on in the country. Under the circumstances the number of unique visitors topped even 1,600.

Thus far Netgazeti subsists through the funding by donors. The editorial office though hopes to have income from advertising too. So far the editorial office has been striving to produce online production and introduce itself on the market.







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