If you’re visiting these pages right now, you might be surprised and upset that there hasn’t been much of an update to Airlock Alpha since late last year.
As years come and go, so do websites. Of course, none of us ever wants to see them go — but that’s the cycle of life, whether we’re talking about people or electronic forums for news.
I do have good news, however: Airlock Alpha is not about to discover what’s on the other side of death. Instead, we’re taking the site off life support just in time for it to celebrate its 17th anniversary in August.
WHERE WE’VE BEEN
The biggest question I get asked is why we don’t spend the time on Airlock Alpha like we used to. One thing that surprises many people is that this is a site staffed by fans who volunteer their time. Although there have been some great times of great ad revenue for the site, that hasn’t happened in quite a while thanks to economic forces out of our control.
At the same time, the entire landscape of online entertainment journalism has changed — something it’s been constantly doing since Airlock Alpha first launched as SyFy World on Aug. 13, 1998.
Back then, our primary goal was to print news that others would link to, sending people straight to us. We didn’t even own a domain name (and many didn’t — domain names were much more expensive back then). While we worked to bring complex behind-the-scenes entertainment news in a far more layman-style form to digest, we also focused quite heavily on spoilers. We would share interesting aspects of everyone’s favorite shows and movies but worked very hard not to actually ruin the experience of those shows and instead enhance it.
Being a spoilers and rumors site was a lot of fun, and we did it well. We were not perfect (no one was), but we broke some amazing news and had a blast.
But others were seeing that success, namely established print publications looking to build an online presence, that could put people in Los Angeles or New York, and who could pay to let them do it full time. The competition became too much when it came to spoilers, so in 2008 — for our 10th anniversary — we shifted our coverage to more news and rumors and left spoilers behind.
Our last spoiler, in fact, was to say that the very last scene of “Battlestar Galactica” on SciFi Channel would take place in New York City. You could imagine the response we got — people said we really were being snowed over. But we all know how that turned out.
In any event, the times continue to change, and in the past couple of years, we struggled to find our place in what has become a crowded digital media landscape. Even going to San Diego Comic-Con — something we would have to spend thousands of dollars from our personal bank accounts to do — was just too crowded.
Our parent organization that I run, Nexus Media Group, formed a relationship with Roddenberry Entertainment and launched 1701News to cover Star Trek, and even then we were a bit lost on what we should do here. I semi-retired from online journalism to concentrate on screenplay writing and wasn’t sure if I would ever be coming back.
Here I am. Our longtime creative director Shane Churchman has been working very hard with both myself and our longtime editor Bryant Griffin in trying to find that new direction. As we were approaching the 17th anniversary, I realized that I didn’t want to see Airlock Alpha die. And I know longtime readers of this site didn’t want to see that either — I get email every single day from people asking when we would be back, and if we would be back.
But we will.
WHAT TO EXPECT
I can’t share too much about what’s going to be coming with Airlock Alpha, except to say that we will take a slightly different approach to how we present the news. What you see here and now will not be here when the new Airlock Alpha launches. In fact, the only way you’re going to know you’re in the right place is that you’ll see our Airlock Alpha logo at the top of the page.
Shane has been very adamant about welcoming me into the 21st century, even if he has to drag me through the 19th and 20th centuries first. I so want to go back to how things were in 1998, and I express that to Shane a lot — until he reminds me that SyFy World launched before there were blogs, Google, the proliferation of high-speed modems, Napster, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, the iPhone, the iPod, Coke Zero, YouTube and Blu-ray discs.
I built the first SyFy World on a computer I bought from a Gateway store in Tampa, where I was excited because the 8 GB of storage was “virtually unlimited” space, according to the salesman. We didn’t really use search engines, except for the one that came with our AOL plan, or maybe Yahoo. If you wanted to access the official Star Trek website, you had to be a member of the Microsoft network. And you could enjoy porn online, as long as you didn’t mind still pictures that would take three minutes to download and open.
I’m sharing all that because I like to not only make myself feel old, but also to acknowledge that times change, and so do people’s online habits. We don’t always keep up with all of it, primarily because you have me yelling, “It’s just a trend! No one is going to use Facebook, because they don’t have Tom like MySpace does!”
I want to say the new look and feel will blow you away, and it will feel a little familiar compared to what other sites are out there. But it also will be quite different from what we’ve been. Please just give us time to adjust, and don’t hesitate to share your feelings with me. Just send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will answer every single question and concern and make adjustments where necessary.
Just know that through all of this, we are not abandoning any of our primary principles we have maintained since the very beginning. That is, we will ensure that our site is geared toward you being able to read and enjoy news. That means no interfering ads, no autoplay videos on the top of stories, no making it impossible to find anything. There is a reason why you’ve made Airlock Alpha your home all these years, and we’ll continue to deliver again and again and again.
So keep an eye out for the new Airlock Alpha. We’re excited about it, and hope you will be too!