Lakeland.net, a ten year old site, has been redesigned as a community portal. The new look was recently unveiled by the local design firm Blue Marlin Group. The company performed the work for a group of investors, and one member of BMG, Dan Gilbert, has been assigned to spearhead the development of the site.
The new owners of Lakeland.net have changed the philosophy behind the decade old site. Gilbert said the site previously focused on promoting select businesses. The new site will feature free business listings, forums, event calendars, help wanted advertisements, photos, and more. Gilbert said the site will adapt to the requests of the community and will be “family friendly.” Gilbert said his “long term dream is that local people will use it as their homepage.”
According to Gilbert, the news section of the site will carry no original reporting. The site will feature wire news, free news feeds, and possibly local news from the Tampa Tribune’s Polk County News Blog.
The majority of the site will feature user created content. “People can post events, add job listings, and classifieds,” said Gilbert. The base level business listings are free; containing just name, address, and phone number, but Gilbert said additional features can be purchased. He added that while help wanted listings are currently free, the company plans to eventually add a fee. “We’re going to keep it inexpensive. The general public can do it all free, ” Gilbert said.
Lakeland.net hopes to be not only a business portal, but a resident meeting place. Forums have been created on a variety of topics, and the site features an easy method to upload photos. Users can also add reviews of any listed business. Gilbert said he expects some reviews will be negative, but the company wants “constructive criticism.”
Toward that goal, all user-created content will be scrutinized. Gilbert said Lakeland.net will keep a close eye on all advertisers, forum posts, and news feeds. A committee was formed to oversee content. Gilbert said the group will decide what news feeds are carried and will judge the appropriateness of advertisements and forum posts. “We want it to be family friendly. A good reflection on Lakeland,” Gilbert said. He said the committee will pull posting privileges from any user who breaks the guidelines.
Gilbert said the site will have a permanent limitation: no advertising from businesses outside of Polk County. He said that there is also no government website listings, but that “it may happen down the road.”
Gilbert acknowledged that the classifieds and forums are similar to the Ledger’s Polk Voice, forums, and classifieds. “I guess it would be competition. However, that’s not what we’re looking to be. We would like it if the Ledger joined in.”
The site’s official kick-off is March 1st, but registration is already open for residents and businesses. There is no cost for residents and the basic business listings. Gilbert said anyone with questions can contact him at (863) 602-8995.
Disclaimer: I have not previously worked with BMG. I don’t know if I have worked with any member of the silent investors who own the site. I’ve created an account at Lakeland.net and will post a review of the site this weekend. In the future I may add content to Lakeland.net, but I won’t add Lakeland Local’s RSS feed.