Chattanoogan.com debuted on Aug. 29, 1999, as one of the nation's first constantly updated online-only newspapers.
Chattanoogan.com began publishing from the Business Development Center in North Chattanooga at a time when online newspapers were just coming on the scene.
Chattanoogan.com has grown to be one of the most read newspapers in Tennessee.
Publisher John Wilson said, "It has been exciting to be a part from the onset of this revolutionary new way to produce a daily newspaper. It has been a fun challenge to be involved in developing almost from scratch a working electronic newspaper model. That includes developing various online ad models and setting their pricing."
He said, "I knew little about what we were getting into, but it was a new way to compete and to keep Chattanooga with two daily newspapers. It was obvious some of the great advantages the new online model offered - including the ability to operate with very little overhead costs and the ability to get the news out instantaneously without having to wait on the paper to be printed and distributed.
"We are thrilled that Chattanoogan.com has not only survived, but thrived. We are very grateful to our many longtime readers and the new ones who continue to discover us as well as very thankful for our advertisers."
Chattanoogan.com began with a small staff that included Mr. Wilson, co-founder Chris Cairns, first staff employee Michaela Miller and writers Jim Ashley and Irby Park. Xavier Cabezas, Shane Ashley and Tad Evearitt, along with a company from Washington state, were instrumental in the early site development and maintenance. It later was handed over to and greatly improved by Ed Sunder and the team at RSOA (3HD) of Chattanooga. Doug Hoyt of Mentone, Ala., has been the invaluable accountant from the start.
Mr. Wilson said, "Our business model was to seek to offer a constantly-updated news and feature site that would keep readers coming back and draw new fans to the site. We never considered charging a fee to access the site. When we got a 'scoop,' we wanted everyone to see it.
"We also decided it was better to make the classified ads free. That was another way to draw a large readership base.
"We reasoned that if we had a large number of readers (potential business customers) that the advertisers would sign up for our banner ads. Fortunately, from the initial ad sales to realtor/developer George McGee and then to Rock City Gardens, our list of advertisers has grown - all without the use of a single ad salesperson.
"With increasing income, we have continually expanded our coverage area and added more writers in areas such as high school sports. The focus area has been Hamilton County, but we are doing more in Bradley County and expect eventually to pay more attention to other area Tennessee counties as well as North Georgia."
Mr. Wilson said, "Anyone in a city elsewhere could follow our model of operating a successful and profitable Internet newspaper. We will provide a ready-to-go website editor with our unique rotating ad program and our know-how -- $10,000, and ongoing hosting and technical help ($1,250 per month). Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (423) 266-2325."