CuencaHighLife gets a makeover and launches an e-letter service; plans an expansion of information services for the expat community

Feb 10, 2015

chl deke1

Castleman

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Mogrovejo

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Morrill

CuencaHighLife has been re- designed, expanded, and upgraded to address the evolving needs of the expanding Cuenca and Ecuador expatriate community.

According to CuencaHighLife partner Deke Castleman, the redesign is both visual and conceptual. “Our purpose is the same as it’s always been, to provide news and information that has genuine value for expats and potential expats,” he says. “As we’ve done for nearly seven years, we continue to regularly post content for expats and English-speaking locals, which reports events and features issues that affect their lives.”

The redesigned CuencaHighLife has been streamlined and reorganized to provide optimum searchability of the more than 1,300 posts, and includes another new feature, Castleman says. “We’ve added an Expat Life section that delves deeply into a range of topics involving expatriation.”

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Castleman says the new CuencaHighLife intends to maintain a narrow focus. “We don’t post classified ads; GringoTree and GringoPost do a good job with that. Currently, we don’t accept display advertising. Nor are we a forum or chat room; there are plenty of those. Our objective is to provide high-quality and reliable news and information.”

CuencaHighLife.com was first launched in June 2008 by David Morrill, a former newspaper reporter and columnist and public-relations-agency owner who moved to Cuenca in 2004. Today, the website is the oldest English-language site in Cuenca and one of the longest-running in Ecuador.

Also in 2008, Morrill and fellow expat Penny Ripple developed, launched, and hosted the email-alert and posting service, GringoTree.

In 2010, Castleman, a travel writer, novelist, and a publishing-company editor, arrived in Cuenca and joined forces with Morrill to produce CuencaHighLife. In 2011, Castleman volunteered to share the GringoTree duties, which had grown substantially after Cuenca, in a very short time, transformed into a world-class destination for English-speaking expatriates.

Together, Morrill and Castleman have written a number of books about Ecuador, Cuenca, and expat life, as well as articles for such publications and websites as The Miami Herald, The Financial Times, New World Review, Huffington Post and Live and Invest Overseas.

According to Morrill, the redesigned CuencaHighLife aims high in terms of the quality of its reporting and writing. “We won’t simply rewrite, in English, articles that appear in Ecuadorian newspapers or on websites,” he says. “Our reporters look for new angles and new sources and when there’s an expat tie-in, they always include it.” He adds: “These journalists have covered Cuenca and Ecuador for years and have old-fashioned noses for news.”

Morrill says that the website plans to add regular arts and restaurant-review columns in the near future and is looking for contributors.

Plans also include opinion pieces from the expat community. “The site has never and will never shy away from controversy. I come from the Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, H.L Mencken school of journalism that doesn’t mind stirring things up occasionally,” Morrill says. “We look for writers who understand that sacred cows sometimes make the best hamburgers.”

Castleman and Morrill have partnered with Cuenca native Jonathan Mogrovejo in the new website. Morrill and Castleman worked with Mogrovejo at GringoTree, where he served as webmaster and advertising manager. (Neither Morrill, Castleman, nor Mogrovejo remain affiliated with GringoTree.) Jonathan will serve similar functions with CuencaHighLife.

He says that the redesigned site is looking for sponsors, but doesn’t sell traditional advertising at this time. “The CuencaHighLife model is a little different from other sites, since we don’t depend on advertising or real estate for our revenue. The new design calls for only one sponsor banner per page. The rest of the space is filled with news, information, resources, and website concerns,” Mogrovejo says.

Mogrovejo also manages the website development and hosting company, GoBig.

In addition to the new and improved website, CuencaHighLife now distributes an e-letter, three or four times a week, notifying expats of the latest developments in Cuenca, Ecuador, and the world.

Morrill, Castleman, and Mogrovejo always appreciate your thoughts. You can contact us at editor@CuencaHighLife.com.

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