Visit Philly is dissolving Uwishunu, the arts and culture blog

The content won’t go away, says the CEO — it’ll be folded into the parent brand.

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Uwishunu, one of Philly’s OG blogs about everything cool going on in the city, is about to disappear.

The publication’s pending demise was announced Monday on its various social media platforms, sparking outcry from fans. Uwishunu’s Instagram account in particular has become super popular, with several people posting laments that it’s become their “go to” for local happenings and events.

All that info will still be available, said Jeff Guaracino, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia. The regional tourism organization is simply folding Uwishunu’s operations into its general brand. Soon, the two entities will actually be one site. The CEO says that’s a win-win, especially since the Visit Philly brand has the larger audience.

The arts and culture blog — say it “you wish you knew” — was launched as a locally-minded offshoot of Visit Philadelphia back in 2007, “when no one even knew what blogs were,” Guaracino said.

Commenters on the post announcing the coming switch were skeptical.

“I liked that uwishunu’s Instagram gave me a more locals-focused feed, since I often skip the visitphilly Instagram stories because they’re announcing stuff I already know about,” wrote one person.

“Visit Philly is to all over the place where uwishunu was way easier to find things and not cluttered,” posted another.

All of the comments on Instagram got the same canned reply, but Guaracino said they were posted by a real live person, not a bot.

Guaracino, who became the organization’s second-ever CEO in 2018, said the whole change is part of an effort to streamline Visit Philly’s online presence. The idea to consolidate started last December, and has nothing to do with the pandemic, he clarified.

“It used to be that you had 15 different social media channels,” Guaracino told Billy Penn. “We’re beginning to see in our responses people want to find everything in one spot.”

Other Visit Philly offspring, like an LGBTQ-focused channel and a music and culture outlet called Philly 360, are similarly being dissolved and brought under the main umbrella.

Going forward, popular Uwishunu posts like “Stellar Things to Do in Philly This Week & Weekend” or guides like “Philly Authors’ Favorite Local Books to Add to Your Reading” will live in a special section of visitphilly.com titled “Uwishunu.” The much-appreciated Instagram stories with tips for outdoor dining or virtual concerts will similarly be found on @visitphilly social.

Why bring tourist marketing and local information together? These days, it’s the same thing, Guaracino asserted.

“Everyone’s looking for an authentic local experience. What data shows is people want to see the full picture of everything that’s happening,” he said, adding, “There’s no ‘Visitor Only’ signs or ‘Residents Only’ signs” — though some Philadelphians might wish otherwise.

When Uwishunu was launched over a decade ago, Philadelphia was only just starting to be recognized for things beyond the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and Ben Franklin. The thinking was that by getting residents excited about all the creative and innovative things going on in their home city, they’d be better ambassadors, and thereby get more out-of-towners to visit.

Original Uwishunu editor Brennan Lukas (now co-owner of Whipped Bakeshop) brought on Eric Smith (now a literary agent and author who also cofounded Geekadelphia) and Marissa McClellan (the author and cooking teacher behind Food in Jars).

The team’s blogs won over thousands and thousands of city residents — and along with many concerted efforts, the gambit worked. Visit Philly founder Meryl Levitz is widely credited with helping elevate Philadelphia to the global stage.

In an homage to Levitz on her retirement in 2018, when she was succeeded by Guarcino, the organization’s board chair noted that “visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com together are the most visited city DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) web site in the United States.”

Guaracino said locals are an even bigger focus for the organization since COVID-19 decimated the travel industry.

Visit Philly is funded mostly by the city’s hotel tax. Its $15 million marketing budget projected for the year was cut down to $9 million, and now even that’s “optimistic,” per the CEO. But with residents’ help, he’s confident the city’s culture will continue to flourish.

“Uwishunu gave an audience to people, to the cool, creative, unbelievable aspects of Philadelphians doing great things here,” Guaracino said. “No longer will we hide it — this will grow the events and artists even more.”

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