Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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It’s true Ocean City needs a new website, but not at $178,000, as estimated by the city’s contracted ad agency. At a time when the city is trying to cut costs across the board, it’s a no-brainer the town needs to get other bids. From the financial end, it fails the common sense test to simply accept an agency’s word that it will cost that much money to design a state-of-the-art website for www.ococean.com. From a creative perspective, it’s also silly to hear from just one company. There is lots of talent in the world of website design, and there are a couple companies locally that are exceptional at what they do. Through the bidding process, the town can become educated on what type of site is available and for what cost. It was said at least week’s meeting that $178,000 is only 3.5 percent of the town’s tourism budget and it’s worth the resources to dedicate to an improved online presence. We agree a significant investment is needed to improve the town’s online presence and bring it up to date with streaming videos, current photos and lots of interactive additions. However, it was the proper decision to get other bids to see what other companies can do. The city should not automatically accept the lowest bid, but they should with an open-mind evaluate all the bids to see what gives them the most bang for the buck. It may still be this $178,000 proposal, but I doubt it will cost that much to design an effective, highly marketable website that will attract a lot of attention Ocean City’s way.

Along those lines, something was brought to my attention this week that deserves a mention, and whoever it is that reconstructs the town’s website should take note. A simple Google search of “family beach resorts”, a term often used in promotional and marketing materials to describe Ocean City, reveals lots of links about Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach, many different Florida destinations, island hideaways, the Bahamas and resorts in Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, Maine, California, and other states. I was astonished there was not one mention of Ocean City, Md. until the 18th page. The 172nd listing featured a nice write-up on our beach resort from the ococean.com site. The new web people need to address this because no consumer will spend 10 minutes flipping through pages after pages of other resorts without making a decision.

If you take to heart all the economic predictions bantered about these days, it can be a little depressing. The stuff that makes gives me the most heartburn is when financial experts predict the economy is expected to drop further into a recession over the next nine months before finally starting to finally show signs of improvement and recovering realistically in two years. In a letter recapping the latest economic figures to state leaders, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot, the tax’s chief collector of taxes, was blunt in painting a bleak picture. He wrote, “General fund revenues for the month of October totaled $900.4 million, a decline of 8.7% from October 2007. There is little if any positive news that can be found in October revenue collections. Indeed, the worst news may also not be readily apparent — the strong likelihood that the poor to abysmal October results do not reflect the full effect of the marked deterioration in the nation’s economy over the past two months.”

Included in Franchot’s letter to state brass was a summary report chart. One line item I found of note was sales tax collections. Readers will remember the state increased the sales tax from 5 to 6 percent effective Jan. 3, and I was interested to see exactly how much additional revenue it has brought in to date compared to the year before. Logic tells me that it should bring in 20-percent more revenue than last year if consumer spending remains steady. That’s not the reality. According to the comptroller’s office, sales tax collections have increased only 9.2 percent through the first 10 months of the year, from $867,626 to $947,543. In October alone, sales tax collections increased by less than 1 percent. Raising this tax was a ridiculous move by the state, and I think the numbers confirm it was a mistake.

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