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Friday, June 06, 2008

Looking for the next great idea

Most of my inspiration is really imitation in disguise. I suspect I'm no different from most editors.

I'm always looking for new ways to better communicate with our readers. When we find something in the media that impresses us, we'll quickly find a way to modify it to how we do things at The Week.

One of my sources of inspiration takes places each year when the editor's of The Week's sister newspapers gather in Steven's Points for two days of brainstorming, learning and just plain catching up.

Editor's from The Janesville Gazette, Monroe Times, Ironwood Daily Globe, and Marinette Eagle-Herald all plan to attend.

In one of this year's sessions, each paper will give a tour of their Web site, talking about what works, what doesn't and what challenges the Web presents.

Here are some highlights I'll talk about from theweekextra.com

Our mission

A free publication has both benefits and drawbacks for our Web site. Because we're a free weekly, we don't pick up any readers who want content without paying for it.

Our readership is lower, compared to sites run by paid dailies, but the when readers do visit our site, they have very specific needs that we need to satisfy efficiently.

Interactivity

We're only limited by time and ideas. Election coverage is a good area for interactivity. We've done a Google mash up of candidate districts, video of candidate forums and Hot Topic sections for reader interaction

Package big news stories: Because we don't use a Merlin type archiving system, we make sure to package big news story coverage. It helps readers as stories develop, as well as helping staff with background.
Examples:
Elections
Delavan shootings
County board downsizing

Photography

We don't' overlook the power of good photography. Just like good writing, it can draw readers in.

We make sure photo galleries are presented prominently and easy to find.

In breaking news situations, a photograph is often the quickest content to get on the Web. We try to think about it as live coverage.

Video

We're always looking for good stories that will tell well in video. We're also ready with video for breaking news. For feature stories, reporters often use video instead of their recorders.

We post our videos to YouTube. On one occasion, a video from a school bus crash was picked up by a TV station.

News feeds

We keep a Topix.net news feed on our headline page. It's a good way to find out about local people in the news elsewhere. We digest the feeds into the almanac on print and brief stories online. If you need proof that short stories have as much impact as long ones, keep an eye on these.

Productivity

Reader services: We have a small staff, but large circulation with large circulation expectations. Whenever we have regular request for service, we add that function to the Web site. For example, reader and advertiser services. Downloadable press release forms are one of our biggest time savers.


If you have suggestions about how to improve the user experience on our Web site, let us know.

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