In his widely read "A Leave of Presence," published the day before he passed away, Roger Ebert mentioned the launch of a new venture, Ebert Digital. The last few days have been a complete whirlwind. Roger and I were quite close, and I’ve lost a dear friend, collaborator, and mentor.
But Roger’s wishes and expectations for Ebert Digital’s first project, a complete rebuild of RogerEbert.com, were for development to continue, even in his absence. We’ve fulfilled our promise, launching the brand new RogerEbert.com late last night, despite the loss of our visionary leader.
Roger’s announcement went on to name me as the Co-founder and Managing Director of Ebert Digital. In this capacity I will continue overseeing business strategy, operations, and product development.
What does this mean for Table XI?
Well, not much, really. I’ll still be the CEO—I’m just going to have to compartmentalize my brain (exactly the kind of challenge I embrace). I will continue to operate in both roles simultaneously for the foreseeable future. Practically speaking, this means I'll be spending more time at the office, walking away on my treadmill desk.
Over the past eight months, I’ve found my two roles to be quite symbiotic. Some days I work face-to-face with Table XI engineers, designers, and digital strategists discussing trends and technologies that will help our clients meet their business goals. Other days I’ve spent collaborating with Roger and Chaz Ebert, visionaries and digital innovators to their cores, who just needed a little help with the details.
The process of launching RogerEbert.com was really three projects in one: Designing the new look and feel to make an intuitive and attractive experience for users; building out the features necessary to power the site and allow the content team to manage it; and migrating the 12,000 pieces of content from the old, antiquated systems and paper archives to the web. It might look simple from the outside, but it took a lot of thought and engineering horsepower to make it happen.
Table XI worked closely with several trusted partners to create an engaging and searchable platform: Fuzzy Math contributed to the interface design, Love Has No Logic designed and implemented the front-end functionality, LaCoste Design and Pitch Design Union contributed to branding, and Digital Third Coast served as technical SEO advisors.
RogerEbert.com is just the first step for Ebert Digital. In the coming months I'll share more stories of digital innovation and experimentation, including our work on a new Ebert mobile app and an overhaul of Roger’s fan club, The Ebert Club. Building these projects has become immeasurably harder with Roger’s passing, but we will continue to execute his vision. We'll develop new ideas and products to honor his memory and his approach to his craft, and maybe, if we’re lucky, create something to which he would have given an enthusiastic “Thumbs Up.”