ElvisNews.com: What a Site!
In January 2000, the British magazine "Record Collector" published an article on Elvis-related websites entitled "Elvis Presley on the Net". Among the 18 sites selected (out of several hundred) and reviewed by the author, there was one he considered "the best place to check for all the latest news on the Elvis scene". Now it might seem strange to talk about "latest news" concerning a performer whose legendary status is undeniable, but who has after all been gone from us for a long time now. Of course, everybody's noticed the CDs in record stores, and - especially in the U.S. - Elvis does turn up in movies and TV commercials every now and then. But "news"? Especially, news justifying a dedicated website with weekly, even daily updates? Even fan club magazines sometimes have difficulty finding material that hasn't been printed elsewhere before, and one might wonder how the ElvisNews.com editors manage to keep their publication going - or why they even bother. We'll get to that, but first...
First of all, let's take a look at the e-zine itself. The address is easy enough to remember: www.elvisnews.com. Navigation on the site is easy, too, especially since it underwent "plastic surgery" about three months ago, acquiring a new, more dynamic design. The operation was a complete success, and readership keeps growing as the editorial team celebrate their first anniversary.
Underneath the heading "ElvisNews.com", the primary navigation bar gives direct access to the home page, the archives, the reviews of CDs, DVDs, books, and magazines, the calendar of events, and links to other websites. The home page is divided into three columns: the center column contains the week's news from all corners of the world, with updates added on an almost daily basis. At the beginning of each week, the cycle begins again, and the previous updates are archived: they can be browsed through easily with the help of the site's search engine. The source of the news item is always given, as well as the link where the reader can find more information. The sources are essentially other websites, some Elvis-related, others not, but also individual contributors. The left column includes several regular features: "Last Week's News" (in English and in French), "Picture of the Week," "What Did This Week Bring to Elvis" (currently under revision), "Elvis Download" (wallpaper and screensavers), and "The Charts" (top 5 songs, albums, imports and sites). The numerous reviews of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and websites can be accessed via the appropriate header, whereby "Links" corresponds to the site award page: these are particularly interesting to read, as are the occasional interviews with people who are in some way connected to Elvis. The right-hand column shows a selection of items available at Amazon's, to which a new service has only recently been added: the "Elvis Shop" now allows readers to order products described or reviewed on the site, and others besides: in the words of one of the webmasters, you can now "get both the latest news and the latest releases delivered to your desktop."
The events calendar ("Events" in the navigation bar) gives an overview of meetings and attractions taking place in the Elvis world, with links to the sites of the clubs or groups organizing the events. Two relatively new additions are a chat (discussion) board and enhanced search possibilities. The latter was made possible thanks to the editors' close cooperation with ElvisFind, a dedicated Elvis search engine.
Published "by fans for fans", the non-profit magazine first appeared on the web in August 1999. The editors' stated goal is to "collect all Elvis news available" from all sources at their disposal, both on line and off, and to publish them on the worldwide web "for fans around the world". Seeing themselves essentially as a team, the editors prefer to remain anonymous. This also allows them to voice their criticism more openly than most other fan sites do. That said, they obviously take pride in their publication and were therefore willing to answer a few questions by e-mail for this feature.
Considering the variety of features and the frequency of updates, it seemed appropriate first to ask how many people work on the team on a regular basis. "ElvisNews.com has an editorial staff of two persons who also act as the webmasters. There are a handful of other contributing editors (3 of them on a weekly basis)." The two main editors are obviously dedicated to their magazine - and to Elvis -, since the two of them together put in about 40 hours a week working on the site.
The international nature of the sources quoted within a "normal" week virtually begged the next question, which was to know how many different nationalities are represented in the team. "In the team mentioned above 4, but counting the spontaneous input (often from the same people) it might be 9 or 10." This is just further proof of the cross-cultural nature of Elvis' enduring appeal, and of the truly global nature of the worldwide web. It also explains the abundance and continuing inflow of information on the site, so that it seems as though the editors may never run out of "fresh" news. Of course, this is true for as long as Elvis remains a cultural icon whose presence is still strongly felt in popular culture, and who thus remains a subject of interest for fans and non-fans alike.
To go back to a question put at the beginning of this article: why do the editors bother with their online publication, when there are so many printed fan magazines in circulation, some of which have to struggle with dwindling readership. In other words, what gave them the idea to set up the site, and what is their ongoing motivation?
"To be honest, our motivation was a very selfish one: namely, we hoped to get backstage passes for Elvis The Concert. Therefore we needed a press medium, and so we came up with a dedicated news site. Unfortunately that was in vain, because we were too late. But the fun took over, resulting in the website as it is now. We were also stimulated by the positive response we got to our initiative from fans around the world. It seemed we found(ed) a new kind of Elvis site on the worldwide web." Not only that, but it is also a sign of things to come, namely online newspapers and magazines that will all but replace their printed predecessors in the (distant) future. In fact, the editors feel that "news on the Internet travel so fast that it is hard for fan club magazines to compete. We believe that their strength lies in the articles they write."
There are still so many stories about Elvis and Elvis products going about, both true and untrue, how do the editors select the news to be published?
"We have a couple of direct sources, covering different aspects of Elvis' life and work. As mentioned before, we get spontaneous input too, often from the same people. And of course we try to collect all news from the Internet (for which we'd like to thank the sources like Elvis World Japan, Elvis Club Berlin, Elvis Information Network and some (other) local fan clubs). We do not really (de)select news, but sometimes we find out things better can't be said (yet) or aren't true at all. We always try to double check everything in our library or elsewhere before we put it on-line. Besides just spreading the news, we don't hesitate to give our opinion on something, when "we think" it is appropriate."
As do most sites, ElvisNews.com also gives readers the possibility to express their opinion on the content of the magazine. How is the feedback from readers?
"Overall the feedback is great. We get a lot of "thank you's", on both content and design. There are also webmasters or record producers who are unhappy with our reviews. However, we believe fans are served best by an honest, objective review of either a book, CD or website. Even most disappointed we