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TEN YEARS SINGING RIGHT OUT LOUD
By Joe Brancatelli
September 29, 2011 -- I crawled into bed "last night" at 3:45 this morning. That's good news, actually. Ten years ago today, when I posted what can laughably be called the first JoeSentMe.com, I got to bed at 4:30 a.m.
The bad news is this: My wife and some friends are going out tonight to grab dinner and to hear some music. But I'll be at my desk, posting this week's columns, preparing pages and the mobile site and working on the first cut of our new home page. I can't tell you how many dinners have been skipped, nights out sacrificed, projects abandoned and life choices deferred, all in an effort to get another week of JoeSentMe on the Web.
Such is life when you "celebrate" the tenth anniversary of a Web site that I didn't want to last 10 days. The fact that we're still here is the worst news of all for those of us who volunteer our time and talents to produce JoeSentMe.com and you amazing folks who loyally visit with us week after week and pay the bills with your subscription dollars.
I put "celebrate" in quotes because there is, in fact, absolutely nothing to celebrate. There wouldn't be a JoeSentMe.com if there hadn't be a 9/11. And that fact that JoeSentMe.com soldiers on is a stark indictment of the commercial publishing industry. It continues to ignore frequent flyers, serve up blather to business travelers and almost completely ignore our needs.
You deserve better than what JoeSentMe can give you. Our funds are limited. My Web-publishing skills are a joke. And as great as the columnists we've collected are, they'd all be better if they were getting paid to pursue the very expensive job of writing and reporting about business travel for business travelers. We've got heart and determination and the zeal to serve, but that doesn't overcome the high cost of doing right by you.
Every morning, for the last 10 years, I wake up and ask myself the same question: Is this the day I can stop doing JoeSentMe? Is this the day some smart publisher unveils a great new Web site for business travelers or puts out a magazine worthy of our needs, our status and (of course) our incomes, which make us quite attractive to advertisers? Is this the day I can tell Chris Barnett and Michael Matthews and Martin Deutsch and all our allied bloggers that we can all go back to writing for pay and working for a company with the financial wherewithal and editorial vision worthy of business travelers?
I checked again this morning. Still hasn't happened.
Don't get me wrong. As you can see on the preview of the new home page, there are tons of useful resources out there for those of us who live our lives on the road. But a go-to spot where we can find all of the news we need to know? Doesn't exist. So JoeSentMe.com soldiers on, linking to anything we think is great, creating what we can and constantly holding up a sign that says: Business travelers matter. We deserve better.
All this said, I would be a fool to suggest that JoeSentMe hasn't been an astonishing adventure. I've gotten to "meet" so many of you and we blissfully talk about cabbages and kings and music and sports and all sorts of other things. You've told me that we've helped a little. Whether it is saving you a few bucks or alerting you to a snafu somewhere that would mess up your life on the road, I know that we have made a difference. And let me make it clear: If you push nouns against verbs as your life's work, nothing is more satisfying than knowing that you've helped out.
There's a line in a Stephen Stills song called See the Changes that says: Ten years singing right out loud/I never looked was anybody listening.
I don't have that problem. I know you're listening and that we've had an impact on your travels. That is heady stuff for a journalist. We're not poets or novelists or playwrights. We don't write for a muse. We write to make a difference. And when you tell us we make a difference, well, we are over the moon. We are humbled and grateful.
And let me tell you something else: This is hardly a one-way street. You've helped me immensely over this last decade. I marvel at your willingness to share your stories and your observations. Your passing on a tip or details on something you've seen on the road makes me a better reporter and a much better business traveler. That, too, is remarkably heady stuff.
Have I told you I hate the name JoeSentMe? I do. I named the site JoeSentMe.com as a joke, when I thought it would last a month. Because this site isn't about me. It's about you.
Calling it JoeSentMe also obscures the contribution of dozens of people who help this feeble little enterprise continue. We'd be nowhere, for example, if it wasn't for David Rowell, who hosts our E-mail and who puts up with my panicked calls when things don't seem to be working. Marlene Fedin continues to fix copy and do other tasks at the most bizarre hours and at my most bizarre whim. How about Martin Deutsch, who arranged the legal and accounting stuff, and who continues to be a tireless supporter of the site, long after he should be sailing around the world enjoying his life? Every writer and columnist who has ever contributed material here has better things to do with his or her life, too.
And did I mention my frequent-flying wife? She's put up with a decade of this silliness. I've lost track of the things we could have done if only I didn't want to run back to the computer for "five minutes" to fix something or bash out an alert or return an E-mail from a member. Poor woman. I wasn't easy to live with when my life was relatively sane. I know she never signed up for ten years of this.
Ten years on now, I can only promise this: JoeSentMe will continue as long as it needs to and you want it to.
As Stephen Stills also wrote: It ain't easy rearranging/And it gets harder as you get older/farther away as you get closer.
Nine-eleven made us all rearrange our lives. Nothing has been right on the road since that dreadful day. And it does get harder as we get older. There are many days when it surely seems farther away.
But it doesn't mean you stop trying. So unless something better comes along for us business travelers between now and then, I'll see you next week for the start of Year 11 of JoeSentMe.
Thank you for being here and allowing us to serve. We are honored to have had the opportunity to make a difference in your lives on the road.
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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.