Over the past month, the 21st-Century Media
(the fancy new name for the company that owns The Reporter and many others) has been rolling out new web sites for all their daily publications. These sites match those rolling out across the country for Media News Group
sites, the newspaper chain that is linked to 21st by a co-management team, Digital First Media
. The two companies are closely aligned in many new projects designed to use the content created by the talented journalists from hundreds of publications to bring readers unique stories, photos, videos and other media that they will not find anywhere else.
But the core of this effort is still local news - the street-level stuff that readers have always expected from us long before web sites even existed.
Here are the six Philadelphia-area sites that converted to the new web interface today:
These join several other 21st Century Media sites already converted to the new look: New Haven Register
and Middletown Press
in Connecticut; Morning Journal
in Ohio; and Oakland Press
, Macomb Daily
, Daily Tribune
, and Morning Sun
in Michigan. Four sites in New York State will be added next month.
So what makes the new sites unique? Well, first of all, if you look at them, they are much simpler than the old sites. Gone is the 'Christmas tree' look of home pages dripping with dozens of links, photos, pop-up boxes, image links and other distractions. The font is bigger, headlines are easier to read, the pages are less crowded.
We kept photo galleries (very popular), highlighted Tout videos (also popular and easy for journalists to create and upload quickly from the field), cleaned up site and article pages, and made it easy for editors to add site features quickly to bring readers not just news, but all kinds of interactive features including live blogs, timelines, polls, informational graphics, live streaming video, customized social media updates from many sources and much more.
So why take away all the links? After all, isn't more better?
The new sites are designed for the way readers actually use news sites instead trying to mimic a carnival poster. Many readers enter the site through links in Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and many other similar sites instead of just entering the home page and clicking around. So the article pages are optimized for search engines to make content easier to find, and navigation has been simplified to offer readers an easy way to find articles and features related to what they are interested in.
The pages are designed to load much faster than the old site, and take up much less 'bandwidth'.
Editors will be able to easily create specialty pages, for example a 'Topic' page can be created on the fly to group articles about a particular subject such as an ongoing trial or breaking news event. Articles can also be grouped by subject category (news, sports, etc) or geography (counties, towns, boroughs, etc). Local news is still produced at each local office, but now regional, national and world news can be also be shared and added to the sites by editors from around Philadelphia and the country.
, which debuted last week for the Philadelphia region, is a good example of how we can re-think the presentation of our content in a way that makes sense for how readers actually use the content. High school sports fans want to read not just about their hometown team, but all the rivals throughout the district and even the state. This is backed up by the web stastistics for that site - many more readers come to GameTimePA than they did for the individual publication sites combined in south-central Pennsylvania (where the site started last year). We hope to see the same results in the Philadelphia area, and so far it is looking good.
And mobile sites - for phones, tablets and whatever else comes along - now account for a good, rapidly-increasing portion of 'hits' to our sites. Though readers won't see changes this week, plans to upgrade and improve the apps for those gadgets are also in the works.
So stay tuned - this is just one more stop in an ongoing process