Henry Scott (pictured), founder and publisher of West Hollywood hyper-local website WEHOville.com, has a digital media credential that is hard to beat. He oversaw the launch of the very first online iteration of the New York Times.
“I was a pretty avid user of America Online and I had hit on the idea of how cool it would be to have a site online for the New York Times,” Scott tells FishbowlLA via telephone of his pioneering 1994 effort. “The only way I could think of doing it was through AOL, because no one was creating independent, free-standing websites.”
“I went to my boss at the New York Times and he told me we didn’t have any money,” he continues. “So I then went to Allan Siegal, assistant managing editor, who told me, ‘Do whatever you want… We have a newspaper to put out, just don’t get in our way.’”
The notion of the New York Times budgeting zero dollars for online and leading someone like Scott to knock empty-handed on AOL’s door reminds just how far the Internet has come. Steve Case‘s lieutenants were of course very interested in adding NYT content to AOL and ponied up $500,000.
Scott worked with a team of three and parked the site on the AOL dashboard via @Times. “The only other paper that was doing this sort of thing at the time was the Chicago Tribune,” Scott recalls.
Fast forward to last Friday. That’s when media vet Scott officially launched WEHOville.com from mid-community offices on Santa Monica Blvd. He has also been personally living in WeHo for a year.
His executive editor is Dan Watson, previously with USC’s Neon Tommy. There is also a full-time sales and marketing person, Daniela Ruelas, a carefully assembled team of freelancers and an imminent full-time reporter hire for the local government beat.
Scott, whose career has also encompassed The Hartford Courant, Out Publishing and Metro US, held a series of meeting with West Hollywood “community influentials” this summer to give them a preview of WEHOville. “I told them, ‘I have an idea, and I know a lot about media, and online, and publishing and the business of it. But I’m not arrogant enough to think I know West Hollywood.’” The feedback, he says, was overwhelmingly positive.
The outlet is fully capitalized for one year without marketing revenues, but Scott says WEHOville is already selling ads. He also is planning to launch a companion print edition, hopefully in the first quarter of 2013.
“It will be radically unconventional,” Scott promises. “The print publications I have spent my time looking at are all in France, Germany and other parts of Europe. They tend to be the most innovative print publications in the world.”
[Photo credit: Len Prince]