Destin's destination website is for visitors and locals alike


Never give up a potent URL, even if you aren't using it at the moment.

More than 10 years ago, Freedom Communications snagged the names and for its tourism-oriented websites on the northwest Florida Gulf Coast. They were popular for a decade before Freedom sold the sites to Halifax Media and Halifax rolled the separate company into its newspaper operations, recalled Donna Talla, director of advertising for the Northwest Florida Daily News in Fort Walton Beach.

Gradually, the sites "went stale," Talla said. "They just slowly fell apart until we were bought out by GateHouse Media, which revived them."

GateHouse, which now also owns the Panama City News Herald, is creating new websites in its "destination" markets that focus on tourism and local events. Among the first to be rolled out is, which is in the soft-launch stage. Coming by the end of this month is a relaunch of, Talla said.

"The URL itself is worth a gold mine:," she said. "But the difference in what we've done to the website is that we've added a booking agent, which is through our third-party vendor TripShock! (

"We want to make it a website for locals and tourists. You can find things to do on the event side – festivals and so forth – and then also book hotels."

In its first month, is a busy place. On Monday one could read about what's available, complete with price ranges, on Seaside's version of food truck row, which is more properly known as Airstream row in the upscale community.

The site also provides a link to for those who want local news, "daily deals" for attractions such as the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and lodging options for Destin, Navarre, Okaloosa Island and South Walton. Included are descriptions of local beaches.



One reporter based in the Fort Walton newsroom is assigned to the site and many contributors also supply content, Talla said. Panama City will become involved with shortly.

" is going to cover between Panama City, which is our sister paper, all the way up to Pensacola," she said. "It will be from east to west. It will be tourism and a hyper-local URL. We're going to zero in on the small towns as well as the beaches and things. It's going to be more of a micro-site, a little bit more in-depth on what's going on in the local communities.

" is going to be the blanket that covers the whole thing, and serves Destin."

Coastal tourism-oriented websites operated convention and visitors' bureaus, chambers of commerce, and individual attractions and lodging companies are all over the internet. Talla said's connection to the newspaper "puts us above all others."

"The bottom line is that we're the trusted authority on content, being with the paper. That's what our website is all about. You engage in the articles and things."

Talla said community reaction has been "great" so far and she is especially pleased to be getting calls already from people outside the market who want to advertise.

"Expect this to be a really big site because you can't beat that URL," she said. "And I think once we start marketing it outside of our market, when our campaign starts to kick in in August, we're going to put on the map."

For more information, contact Donna Talla at

Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

Destin, Panama City, Fort Walton Beach, Talla, GateHouse Media
Calendar View all