The younger generations in today’s world no longer think in terms of isolated media such as print, film, and audio. Rather, it is increasingly true that all of these media are now accessed through the meta-channel of the Internet. And while the first wave of Online newspaper editions were simply transcriptions of the text already available in the print edition, the inherent nature of the Internet has made this model obsolete.
When a user logs onto a newspaper website, she expects to see more than just print. If an article is based on an interview, she expects to be able to find the video recording of this interview. Conversely, if an interview is published as audio or video, she expects to find a link to the transcription and to a summary. While there are certainly users who still prefer a primarily print-based experience, this demographic is quickly shrinking.
And it is not only users who are sensing the need for change. A study published by the Media Management Center at Northwestern University found that most journalists see the transition to digital as a necessity. Out of all of the journalists interviewed, only six percent felt that they wanted to move back to a print-based model. You can read the full study by clicking on the link above.
The challenge for local newspapers is to effect this change without having the relatively vast resources that are available to major news outlets. When news first started to go digital, setting up integrated media still required a great deal of technical expertise. However, with web 2.0, the technology required to integrate multiple media into your online presence is no longer prohibitive. So even if you run a very small shop, there are several things that you can do to make the transition without breaking open your piggy-bank. Here are just a few examples of simple (and low- or no-cost) ways that you can do this:
1. Set up a content management system.
A content management system is a software program that allows you to update your website using an online interface. This way you don’t have to know HTML or any other type of coding. You’ll probably need to have someone set this up for you, but the work is relatively low on the difficulty scale for most web designers. Hence, this should not cost very much at all, and once it is set up, it will need little to no maintenance. Joomla, is a popular content management system, but there are countless others. Send me an email or write a comment if you need help choosing one or need to find a freelancer to set this up for you.
2. Set up a digital blog.
A blog is an even simpler way to upload content to the web. WordPress (the model used for this very website) is very simple to use, and you might even be able to do the initial set up yourself. Otherwise, you can hire a freelancer to do the work in a few hours or less. All that you have to do is log in, paste in your content, and click “publish.”
3. Use a microblog.
Twitter is the most popular example of a microblog. If there is breaking news that you want to get out right away, use this tool to give your readers a quick headline.
4. Use free or low-cost image sharing wigets.
Images are not nearly as expensive to post on the Internet as they are to print in a newspaper. If you have a website with a decent amount of image hosting, you can do this for free. You could even simply host your images on one of the many free image hosting websites such as flicker. This may not be “super-professional” but it is definitely efficient, and may be perfectly appropriate for the scale of a local newspaper. This also has the added benefit of making it very easy for your readers to send in their own photos which you can then accept or reject as content.
5. Share videos.
The same goes for videos. You can host videos from your website if you have enough space and bandwidth, but even just hosting videos for free from YouTube can do the trick. An organization like the New York Times would probably prefer to host their own videos, but for a small local newspaper, a YouTube channel might be enough, at least to start. Once again, you can host both your own videos and user submitted videos.
6. Set up an email newsletter.
This is an efficient way to remind your readers of what’s happening in your newsroom and important issues that they should be aware of. A great way to encourage your readers to give you their email addresses for the newsletter is to require an email address for them to be able to leave comments after your online articles and other content (which, by the way, they are going to expect to be able to do).
This is essentially the practice of recording short audio segments that can them be effortlessly posted to the web. When it comes to conducting interviews, this is a great way to include the original source material behind an article.
8. Use texting for mobile content.
Just like your micro-blogging tool, texting can be used to sent breaking news headlines to readers who have opted in for this service. Only in this case, they are granted mobile access.
9. Integrate news into local maps.
Mapping software such as Google Maps can be easily integrated into news stories allowing users to visualize the location of events. This can also be used to set out recreation plans for users such as bike trails, hiking paths, and garage sale itineraries.
10. Integrate news into social media (e.g. Facebook or Myspace).
For almost everyone under thirty, and for a growing number of people above this age, social media have become a central part of life. As such, your local paper should have a presence on these forums. By putting up a fan page for your newsroom, users can “like” or “become a fan of” your organization, providing free publicity. You can then link your microblog into these social media outlets to have them automatically update users about breaking news.
As always, if you need any help with these concepts or want me to hook you up with someone who can help you set some of these features, send me an email or leave a comment.
Think outside the newsstand,