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Bonjour Paris was a brilliant idea…NOT! A group of American expat writers wanted to share their France with the world, and why would we have any trouble? The adage “timing is everything” couldn’t have been more appropriate. We assumed French advertisers would be pounding down our cyber doors in order to reach a market of (primarily American) tourists who were Paris-bound. The BP (not British Petroleum) team wouldn’t have any problems supporting the site, since hotels and restaurants would be clamoring to advertise; our readers were the ultimate target audience.
How wrong we were. Or rather, we were premature in launching Bonjour Paris, which at the time was hosted exclusively on AOL. Each time we’d meet with potential advertisers and sing the praises of the Internet, the representative would say, “C’est quoi ça?” and express disbelief that it was (and would be increasingly so) an effective means of communication and marketing. It’s amazing to believe this was only ten years ago. We may not have been the first website about France, but we were certainly among the pioneers.
But it’s been a long ten years. And, it’s only now that computers with Internet access are fixtures in most French families’ homes. A wise friend summed it up when she said that until consumers can buy computers in supermarkets (in France, hypermarchés), the online era isn’t yet a reality. Plus, prices had to tumble before every Jean, Phillipe, and Sandrine were going to start typing away.
During its tenure, Bonjour Paris has been forced to make numerous upgrades. There have been incredible technological advances in website development; the first major change we made was to migrate to the Internet. We’ve revised the site a minimum of six times and no longer are Bonjour Paris readers greeted by a barking dog when they access the site. Our French pooch took a leave of absence. I always know a reader is an old-timer when he or she bemoans there’s no longer the sound of a “woof” saying, “Welcome to France.”
Should Bonjour Paris have closed? You had better believe it. The profit and loss statement reflected nothing but vivid red ink flowing from its bottom line. But, I’d become addicted to the site, as had other members of the Bonjour Paris team. I’ve lost count of the number of contributors who have gone on to publish books and I can say, “I knew them when…..”
The amazing thing about Bonjour Paris is how many true friends I’ve made as a result of it. They may have posted a question on our Discussion Board, or contacted me personally. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting more than a few readers and we’ve lived through the ups and downs of REAL life together. What’s evident is that Francophiles are generally very nice people and it’s rare that they don’t appreciate good wine and food.
During Bonjour Paris’s periodic get-togethers, it’s amazing how people recognize one another from their posts. Contrasted with print publications, the interactive nature of the Internet (not to mention, being able to change content when it’s stale) is a turn-on.
After ten years of being “president” of Bonjour Paris, I’ve learned a lot. Writing about the France I know and experience (and constantly discover) is an ongoing challenge. The longer I’m here, the more and the less I understand.
Most importantly, Bonjour Paris owns me and not vice versa. It’s a passion like any other, and one that tens of thousands have come to share.
© Karen Fawcett