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Baby Steps June 16, 2007

Posted by newscoma in Newscoma Files.
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The meeting that Freezertroll and I had with the publishers/owners yesterday went well and I think we are now beginning the journey of our adventure of getting the papers up on the innertubes where we are looking at this as a priority.

I had to really process it throughout the afternoon.  One of the biggest obstacles we’ve encountered was that, in this rural news setting, that the publishers have struggled with the immediacy that Internet media has provided and that it has really exploded over the past three years. They really embraced the concept yesterday after initially being somewhat resistant, because of our size and our location. The other obstacle was that in the past, they wanted people to buy the newspaper first and then make the stories/information available the next day. As anybody knows, that’s not going to work.

For over two years, FT and I have said to them this was a grievous mistake, however, they prevailed because they own the paper. In the last few months, surrounding mainstream competitors have advanced while we have stayed in a holding pattern with a website that had to be updated by FT. He is a tech, run pre-press operations, building niche publications and is the only person at the newspaper that knows how to do the advanced networking/electronic work/computer techy (I’m so advanced in my language **snark**) stuff. FT didn’t have time to sit and work on the news website while putting out 17 crisis an hour at the mothership paper, or ours and ended up doing a lot of this in his spare time.

And the current website shows that although it was noone’s fault. It just was secondary and I don’t think, until the last few months, that they thought as the internet being has huge as that neither one of them pays attention to the swell of online media.

They are newspaper guys. They’ve grown up with ink staining the ends of their fingers. Their father and his father brought them up in the world of whirling printing presses and the joy (and there is one) of seeing the first paper come off the press.

As I try to try on other people’s shoes, I understand this. They have, in some respects although it is a business, been grieving this change. It makes sense.

With the addition of several online only papers cropping up in the area, the reality that self-publishing platforms could indeed impede on our business slowly has become a reality.

In our meeting yesterday, and as Freezertroll wrote yesterday, we have hired a company to build our site which is the first step in getting a more comprehensive and better looking site of the ground. I’m pleased that I have, as the managing editor of the bi-weekly, encouraged my staff to blog. The format we picked is set up along the same lines as a blogging platform. More complicated, but still on the same lines. Our chief staff writer, Sabrina, said yesterday she is really comfortable with the program because of her blogging experience. As I’m thinking about it, most of the staff have blogs right now. This comes down to about 7 people and at the corporate offices, there are countless people who are on either MySpace or Facebook. It is the older generation, which I’m a part of, that seems more resistant. But surprisingly enough, the oldest member of my staff is the most excited about this project and is eager to learn how to get her community news to the public in a more immediate fashion.

This is encouraging.

The publishers admitted yesterday this had to be done more quickly than they initially thought and I think that we finally felt that they were more on board than they’ve ever been. You could see a great deal of sadness in both of them because they are third generation newshounds who have a small syndicate of papers that truly believed that the Internet would not be a problem. They finally get, that with the additions of several online entities, it will and has.

And for FT and myself, this is good news as we have been preaching this to the point that we were mired in frustration. They also are going to give us the latitude, and the money we need to do this effectively for our community and for their business.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there will be ups and downs but we are on the right step.

And we are ready for the challenge. Starting next week, we are locking ourselves away to get this up and going. We would like to have a beta site up for them to say within the next couple of weeks. I spoke to my staff and asked them for patience yesterday.

They actually seem very excited about this project. We are lucky to work with such fine people at the Weakley County Press.

Next big challenge: This is not something that can be done in a day. But finally, I think they see that.

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