The redesigned, relaunched version of CuencaHighLife celebrates its first year of publication as the most widely read English-language website in Ecuador.
“We want to thank all of our readers for making us number one,” says partner and general manager Jonathan Mogrovejo. “We have a lot of great plans for 2016 and look forward to reaching even more people who want to know what’s happening in Cuenca and Ecuador.”
Launched originally in 2008 by partner and editor David Morrill, CuencaHighLife.com provides news, features and information for expats, prospective expats, tourists, and others interested in keeping up with events in Cuenca and Ecuador. Local news is written in clear English by correspondents, and is not run through a translation program from local news sources.
The 2014 redesign was intended to attract a wider audience and since then, readership has increased from 500 to almost 3,000 a day.
During its first year, CuencaHighLife has added a number of features including a Spanish language edition, restaurant and hotel directories, videos, and a free classifieds section. In November, it added Jeanne’s Periodico, a synopsis of the news from Cuenca daily newspaper, El Mercurio, along with Jeanne’s poignant commentary. In April, CuencaHighLife launched a sister site, EcuadorHighLife, which provides a digest of Ecuador and Latin American news.
Mogrovejo and Morrill also publish a daily e-letter that previews articles on the two websites. The e-letter has 11,400 subscribers.
Since December 2014, CuencaHighLife has published over 1,000 articles on subjects ranging from politics, culture, nutrition and health. The website’s columnists have offered advice to expats and potential expats on a variety of topics, many concerning the issues faced by those who relocate to another country.
The classifieds section, launched less than three months ago, has published 1,170 classifieds, including notices of events in Cuenca and Ecuador.
According to Mogrovejo, the comments posted under articles and columns keep the site vital and current. “We love the feedback we get from our readers and we apply very few restrictions to what they want to say. In just one year, they’ve posted 3,361 comments.”
In the website’s latest venture, CuencaHighLife Radio went live three weeks ago, featuring Fusion Pocket with disc jockey Gary Michaels. “Gary’s thrilled with the number of people tuning in and the audience is growing every day,” says Morrill. “He plays a great mix of music and between sets he talks about events, restaurants and pretty much anything else that pops into his head.” Morrill says the Internet radio station will add more music programs early next year and plans several talk shows featuring local expat talent. To read the article about the radio station, click here.
Both Mogrovejo and Morrill say they are proudest of the work of the writers who contribute to CuencaHighLife. “We have an outstanding group of columnists and news and feature writers and they are really responsible for making the website what it is today,” Morrill said. They include Christopher Lux, a college instructor and former reporter for the Charlotte Observer, Susan Burke March, author and researcher on health and nutrition issues; writer Scott Fugit, part-time expat who splits his time between Cuenca and Boise, Idaho; Thomas Ives; a photo journalist whose work has appeared in the world’s top magazines and newspapers; retired workers’ comp attorney David Nelson; Wendy Jane Carrel, writer and lecturer on end-of-life issues and former senior care center director in California; Vilcabamba artist and community organizer Viktoria Vidali; former college professor Walter Panko; world traveler Karla Freeman; college student Melina Marks, and Sylvan Hardy, former southeast Asia correspondent for The Guardian and Financial Times.
Morrill is a former syndicated columnist and book reviewer for U.S. newspapers, as well as a college creative writing instructor, and public relations agency owner.
Former CuencaHighLife partner, Deke Castleman continues to be a contributor but a new job in Nevada required him to relinquish partnership responsibilities.
Despite its wealth of talent, CuencaHighLife is looking for more columnists and feature writers, according to Morrill. “We have a specific need for an arts writer and restaurant reviewer, but we’re always in the hunt for fresh talent in general. Our requirements are pretty simple: good writing and clear thinking,” he says. He adds that the website does not shy away from controversial topics so long as arguments are well presented. “I come from the Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken school of journalism that doesn’t mind having a little fun, even stirring things up occasionally. I believe that sacred cows usually make the best hamburgers.” Morrill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mogrovejo, a web designer and software developer, continues to make improvements to the website. “We are just completing a partial redesign that makes a single site design compatible with computers, tablets and cell phones,” he says. “The old version was becoming overloaded and slow and some functions didn’t work on some platforms. He solicits comments on the recent changes, as well as reports about problems, at email@example.com.
In addition to Mogrovejo and Morrill, the HighLife staff includes Jonathan’s brother Jeremy Mogrovejo, who handles advertising sales (he can be reached through Jonathan’s email).
Mogrovejo was born in Kentucky but went to high school in Cuenca and college in Virginia. A native Californian, Morrill spent most of his life in Tallahassee, Miami, and San Francisco. He moved to Cuenca 12 years ago.