Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Building an online local newspaper in 2006

In a word, diversify. Online newspapers need to push on with their unique selling points; namely, local knowledge and a trusted brand bringing loyalty within the a local marketplace. These need to be visible online whilst providing a more user-driven site, accessible to all on any platform.

Aims & objectives

Encouraging interactivity and providing high standards of usability for users; using web standards and offering flexibility for the web producers.

Design & construction

  • Usable and accessible to all potential users in any browser, on any platform (mobile, PDAs, etc).

  • Clean design and layout, with clear branding links with any print editions.

  • Consistent branding and navigation.

  • Produced in semantic, web standard code (XHTML and CSS) to improve control of layout.

  • Makes temporary changes within layout templates more flexible, make content viewable on any platform with minimum of extra development work and make future developments easier.

Content & features

The digital age is well and truly upon us, modern news providers are multimedia outlets where news is transmitted and received in new formats by ever hungry users devouring news and information as quickly as it is produced. As Media Guardian puts it: "With news websites starting to fill up with audio and video clips, we are seeing just the beginning of "convergence"."

  • Regularly updated content, i.e. up to the minute news from the local news team.

  • Follow-ups and updates of news from print edition. Established print working patterns would need to be augmented by an understanding of the web audience and skills in writing for the web.

  • The written content would be more geared towards a web audience. Shorter sentences/paragraphs and use of bullet lists.

  • Flexibility to change homepage features regularly with eye-catching content whilst keeping basic structure and layout.

  • Use of audio and visual content to augment written articles (but not just for the sake of doing it).

  • Alternative distribution methods: Email newsletters, RSS feeds, blogs, email alerts.

  • Awareness of online news aggregators: Google News, Newsvine - " build a perfectly different, perfectly efficient way to read, write, and interact with the news." Read an analysis of Newsvine.

  • Text containing terms related to article keywords more helpful for search engine ranking. Google's advice for your website: Content.

Relationship with the audience

  • Giving them the content that they want, in the format they want it: RSS feeds, email updates for specific sections.

  • Offer blogs, user feedback/input, blog comments.

  • Still pushing commercial options.

Marketing & promotion

  • Clear consistent branding across all off and online editions.

  • Cross promotion of features and offers.

  • Print edition pushing online only content and vice versa.

Revenue/Return on investment

  • Targeted advertising within sections.

  • Sponsorship of features/sections – cross-branded between off/online editions.

  • Interactive competitions – use of SMS.

  • Not overwhelming the homepage with advertising, but specific content can carry relevant advertising options.