Successful ideas become successful because they fill needs. The basic idea for 121five.com came from a major vendor at Sun 'n Fun in 2007. He asked freelance aviation writer, consultant and publicist Tim Kern what he could do to get his press releases more-widely published. “We spend all this money on advertising,” he said, “and still, we can't rely on getting our press releases out.”
There are several reasons why print media do not print all the press releases they receive. For one thing, they don't have the space; for another, they don't want to be scooped by other publications which they know are getting the same press release. In addition, press releases often have short shelf lives, and by the time a print publication gets into the hands of its subscribers, the news is old.
All those reasons, though, don't solve the industry's problem. Legacy online publications don't face the same size restrictions, but they do have the same problem with presentation, in that they don't want to publish the same things other such publications present, so they introduce another problem: they often re-write press releases, sometimes making the final presentation less-accurate or losing some of the nuances. Sometimes these changes actually alter the message. Worse, one daily online publication is famous for interjecting editorial comment into news releases, sometimes turning what should have been positive exposure into negative news!
121five.com uses a different model altogether.
121five.com is proud to deliver the industry's messages directly to the interested public, without comments, edits, or changes. The Contributing Sponsors have their own logins and passwords, and enter their own News Stories directly into the site. There is no middleman to slow things down, ignore the release, or make changes that may intentionally or unintentionally dilute or distort the message. Since 121five.com makes no pretense of being a traditional news site, the press releases can be written in a non-press release format, making them more-interesting to the reader. [Let's face it: the standard “press release format” does not often read as well as a properly-written news story. 121five.com lets Contributing Sponsors write what essentially becomes a “news story” – and it can be much more readable.]
How 121five.com attracts readers is also different.
Convenience and Intuition
121five.com is designed with a crisp, business-like design. The tab action keeps the reader focused on the “above the fold” area, reducing scrolling. Click-throughs can be closed without losing one's place in the original document (or getting logged off altogether). Byzantine labyrinths at regulatory sites are one-click wonders for readers of 121five.com who open the "Institutional Information tab: they can immediately see the last 60 days of ADs; look up a tail number instantly; research the NTSB accident database, or find the latest FAA news. One click.
Sponsors, too, are rewarded with ease of use. Once a company's boilerplate is entered, it need not be entered again; changing the boilerplate or eliminating it altogether for a specific story is easy; and replacing old boilerplate with new is a one-click step.
Searching is currently available in text-string mode. As the site matures and becomes populated, an existing search-category engine will make quick, categorical searches available and transparent to the readers.
Special Services for Contributing Sponsors
Of course, each Contributing Sponsor includes a link on its Home or News page: “See our news at 121five.com” That link brings the reader to what looks like the 121five.com Home page but, once there are a reasonable number of items in the history, that “home page” will be populated with only the items submitted by that particular Contributing Sponsor. (To get the actual 121five.com Home Page, the reader would have to click the “Home” link.)
Although English is the official language of aviation, many non-pilots (aviation mechanics and maintainers, corporate flight department personnel, news writers and general-population enthusiasts) do not wish to struggle with English. 121five.com provides a cut-and-paste mechanical translation link that takes the English original into French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Greek, Italian, or Korean. While the result may not be Shakespearian, the message will still come across.
World-class professional photographers and gifted amateurs alike contribute a small number of their favorite shots to 121five.com, for use by its readers and Wire Service Partners. In exchange, these photographers receive links back to their galleries, where their full selection of images is available for purchase. A picture is worth a thousand words; we need say nothing more here!
Wire Service Partners
Tim Kern writes for many aviation publications, and has no desire to lose that business, so he needed, in structuring 121five.com, to actually help the publications who hire him, rather than enter competition with these well-established magazines. Fortunately, what is good for that writing relationship is also good for 121five.com's Wire Service Partners.
Here's how: participating publications run a link to 121five.com on their home or news page that says, “We get our news at 121five.com.” 121five.com, in return, reprints some of the best of those publications' articles, older articles that the publications own that are no longer in circulation but that contain great information, articles that otherwise would be lost to time. At the bottom of those articles (in .pdf format) runs a link: “Do you like what you read? Click here.” That link takes the reader to the publication's subscription sign-up page. That way, 121five.com has great content on a variety of subjects, and the publications have additional recruitment at no additional expense – and the entire base of aviation knowledge grows, expanding the industry and adding to the expertise of existing participants and enthusiasts.
121five.com encourages general aviation organizations to share their news and especially their members' stories with its readers. Often, members will have a very interesting item, from a short piece of information, to a tip about a new regulation, to a 'round-the-world trip, that would be appealing to other pilots, mechanics, or corporate business departments. The organization may not have a vehicle to tell its members, or the item may not fit the organization’s format; nevertheless, it’s interesting or important in some way. The organizations may forward these items to 121five.com to become Features. The Feature (in .pdf format) will include a link back to the organization, and may also have a link to the author/contributor, depending on his or her wishes.
Every aircraft, in current production or not, has its fans, and many have organized clubs for mutual knowledge-sharing and support. Marque Clubs can reach out to 121five.com readers by providing Features of interest to those in the industry who otherwise might not have the information. If, say, the American Bonanza Society ran an article on the care and feeding of brakes back in 1994, the article will have been lost to history or relegated to a few personal archives – but the information is still relevant, and would help others, whether they fly Bonanzas or not. When the Bonanza lovers contribute this Feature (again, in .pdf format), the acknowledgment and link at the end of the story may drive more interested people to the Society. Knowledge and safety increase, the contributor has another exposure of his or her work, and everybody benefits – and more readers look for more Features at 121five.com, improving search-engine ranking and circulation.
Learn to Fly
These links are provided as a service of 121five.com, in exchange for the participating sites' reciprocal link: “Get your news at 121five.com” People new to aviation want to get all the information they can, and 121five.com will provide high-quality material unavailable in any other single site. We all know that expanding the base of aviators is the key to the survival of General Aviation, and we'd all like to help. So we do.
Another great source of industry information comes directly from our Contributing Sponsors. 121five.com is designed to make Sponsors' information readily available. While a researcher (or merely a curious aviation buff) may know that certain information is available at a certain manufacturer's website, those websites are often not specifically designed to aid those searches. Additionally, any given manufacturer will certainly not have another manufacturer's data – so collecting some of the most-interesting data in a single place (at 121five.com) makes sense. How many different engine models has, say, TCM / Continental ever made? The information is available on their site, of course – but researchers may not know that, and the curious may not have the tools to find it. But if TCM were to post its one-page .pdf data sheets at 121five.com, anyone could look up any model and immediately know the basics: bore and stroke, compression ratio, weight, and so on.
Sponsors go to great expense and trouble to produce information of a nature that's a bit too technical to simply give away at airshows: engineering and executive summaries, OEM brochures, installation tips, White Papers. While these materials are packed with information, most people outside the manufacturers' inner circles don't know what is available or where to find it. 121five.com's Features are set up to present this kind of informational work to an intelligent, information-hungry audience that frankly isn't large enough by itself to support a dedicated publication – but it helps both the presenting company and the general readership, and 121five.com's web presence is the ideal vehicle.
The Overall Goal: Expand Aviation Through Better Access to Information
121five.com is dedicated to providing good information, direct and unfiltered, to the General Aviation audience, and to expanding that audience. Contributing Sponsors, Organizations, Wire Service Print Partners, and Marque Clubs all have the same ultimate goal. If we all pull together to educate and encourage the aviation-interested media and public, we can preserve and expand airports, improve maintenance, sharpen flying skills, develop and implement new technology, reduce costs, educate legislators, improve our utilization – and enjoy flying more.
What You Can Do:
Please help spread the word about 121five.com. Encourage links; use the many services; patronize our sponsors!
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