Promoting Paradise City: Where Northampton’s new website is headed

  • A screenshot of Northampton Live's homepage, seen June 5, 2019. SCREENSHOT VIA NORTHAMPTON LIVE—

Staff Writer
Published: 6/5/2019 4:47:05 PM
Modified: 6/5/2019 4:46:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Northampton Live, a website that seeks to drive visitors to the city, had its soft launch in mid-April, and Blair Winans, president of Rhyme Digital, which designed the site, says he is happy with its progress.

“It’s all about keeping the momentum going,” said Winans.

The city of Northampton hired Rhyme Digital to create Northampton Live, as well as to run and promote the site through December.

The money for Rhyme’s $85,000 contract came from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, out of its Community Mitigation Fund. The website is the crux of a marketing plan to mitigate the impact that MGM Springfield might have on the city’s tourism industry by drawing casino visitors to the Paradise City. Of the $85,000, $20,00 is dedicated to advertising.

Rhyme also received $15,000 to design the marketing plan last year; that money came from the $100,000 the city received from the commonwealth for mitigation in 2017.

Winans said that since launching in April, Northampton Live has received around 15,000 page views from around 7,000 individual visitors. He said that the goal is to get the site to at least 10,000 visitors a month.

The site also has about 300 email subscribers and sends out an email twice a week.

Rhyme Digital, which is based in Easthampton, has created programs that mine calendars and social media postings for content related to Northampton, although what is posted on the site is curated by the company. Businesses also can submit events on the Northampton Live site.

Winans noted that the company has held several workshops with local businesses on how to best use the site to promote their events and businesses and that the reception has been “really positive.”

The company also promotes the site on social media and its employees have written content for it, including top-five lists.

In terms of what makes it onto the site, Winans said that events have to be Northampton-based and must fit into the categories covered by the site, including food/drink, shopping, music/nightlife, arts/entertainment and beauty/wellness.

Winans said that the beauty/wellness area was added after Google Analytics showed that a large number of high-income women 45 and over have used the site; the company got similar feedback from the workshops as well.

“We’re listening to both the data and what’s coming back from the community,” said Winans.

The site was constructed with the input of the city, Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Northampton Association, and Winans said that he updates the DNA and the chamber about the site on a weekly basis.

“We’re pleased with how Rhyme has segmented our businesses,” said Vince Jackson, the new executive director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce. “The campaign is off to a great start.”

Jackson said that traffic on the site has increased in response to increased advertising, and that there has been strong engagement from people in New York and Boston with the site.

Getting business input is crucial, Jackson said. He said he would like Rhyme to circle back with businesses it has already engaged with, “three or four months down the road.”

Rhyme will stop running the site at the end of the year, and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said that, when that happens, another entity will have to take it over.

“That was always our concept,” said Narkewicz.

The city has applied for $28,000 from the commonwealth to pay Rhyme to continue to monitor and analyze data from the site in 2020.

“We hope to hear an answer from the Gaming Commission,” said Northampton Economic Development Director Terry Masterson, adding that he believes the city would know whether it will get the funds by July.

Although the mitigation money was given to counter the possible negative impact of the new MGM Springfield, which opened its doors in August of last year, Masterson said that hotel/motel tax revenues for the city have continued to increase since 2016.

Masterson also said that meals tax revenues for the city have remained steady since 2016, with a significant increase this past November, December and January compared to those months in the previous fiscal year.

The mayor noted that these figures coincide with the first three months of New England Treatment Access being open for recreational marijuana sales.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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