Then night before Macon and Bibb County voters agreed to consolidated government, staff of what would become the Macon-Bibb Public Affairs Department snapped up a load of possible Internet domain names.
The choice now in use is maconbibb.us for all basic information, with maconbibb.tv for video. Those were available because a variety were bought up, both to preserve the choice and to keep anyone else from “cybersquatting” with names like maconbibb.org or maconbibb.info, said Trae McCombs, maconbibb.tv manager.
“It’s virtual real estate, if you will,” he said.
Voters approved consolidation July 31, 2012. The government is holding onto those assorted domain names, even if they’re not in use, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.
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“We don’t want people setting up fake sites with wrong information,” he said. The domain names weren’t expensive, costing just a few dollars each to register for a year, McCombs said.
Now that the official sites are up and running, Public Affairs staff want to branch out and provide more services. Communication functions were centralized in consolidation, creating a “two-way” public affairs office that not only gives out information but takes customer service requests, Floore said.
The team working on video recording and broadcast was enlarged, with former Macon police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet and former Bibb County spokesman Kevin Barrere joining McCombs.
“We felt that an early win would be to beef up the size of the TV team,” Floore said.
Maconbibb.tv posts not only recordings of Macon-Bibb County Commission meetings but also informational videos. The team has just made its 38th video, said Gaudet, maconbibb.tv’s coordinator. They’re meant to be entertaining but also to address serious issues, she said.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided a $62,200 grant in early 2013 for new video equipment to record meetings of the consolidation task force. Those portable cameras can now provide streaming online video from events far from government offices, Floore said.
And commission meetings themselves should become clearer in the coming year with a new sound system as the first in a series of planned upgrades to the commission chamber, though other changes will have to wait for more money, McCombs said.
In January, maconbibb.tv started tracking the number of its viewers and keeping an informal eye on how its videos are shared through social media, Floore said. Commission meetings never get many shares, but videos about the Macon Arts Alliance, for instance, get reposted frequently, he said.
Webmaster Justin Crum said local media outlets also pick up the official videos. About 30,000 people a month watch maconbibb.tv videos, growing by about 1,000 per month, he said.
Maconbibb.us gets about 132,000 regular visitors and about 38,000 unique visitors per month, Crum said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.