My colleagues expect that I know about the latest and greatest technology in the field. As a 28-year-old online editor, I should, right? Well, I certainly don’t know about it all.
The challenge that online editors face every day is determining what technology is worth in an investment of our resources. It’s tough to predict what will interest our readers the most.
In June, we started a text messaging service to reach our readers where they are. We send breaking news, severe weather and traffic alerts to readers’ cell phones. We also send the daily weather forecast and top headlines.
Who wouldn’t want to know about a tornado warning or a major traffic jam? The alerts give readers critical information when they need it.
Before we began this service, I did not send or receive text messages on a regular basis. Now it’s a part of my weekday routine.
We’re also sending breaking news, severe weather and traffic e-mail alerts to catch people who sit in front of a computer all day and can jump on our site when news is happening.
To reach potential young readers where they hang out online, we created a profile on the popular social networking Web site MySpace.com. Until I created the profile, I had never been on MySpace.com. My brother, a high school senior, gave me tips on how to use the site. He is on the site every day.
We have a presence in the vast blogosphere at Blogs.ThePoconos.com. My blog primarily focuses on hiking and biking. I’m not an avid reader of blogs, but I do enjoy writing snippets about my outdoor adventures.
Our sister paper in Sunbury, Pa., is producing video for its Web site. We will be doing so ourselves soon. This initiative does involve a significant investment of resources. We’re confident our readers will appreciate the addition to our online offerings.
How can you use technology to expand the content on your Web site?
* Have a brainstorming session with tech-savvy folks in your newsroom. Don’t assume the youngest staffers are the most up to date on technology. Extend your invitation to the entire staff.
* With the help of your information technology staff, pick three ideas to pursue. Avoid selecting three projects that require a large amount of resources. Choose at least one that you can get going quickly.
* Allocate resources (both funding and staff time) to implement the ideas.
* Most importantly, ask your readers about the new features. They can help you decide which projects to focus on next.
What if you have minimal resources available to add features to your Web site?
* Create a free blog at Blogger.com. Include a link to it from your homepage, and when news breaks, post a blurb. If you have a photo, then you can add it to your post. Readers can write comments, which may help you develop the story.
* Create a free photo page at Flickr.com. Include a link to it from your homepage and post the extra pictures your photographers take at major local events in galleries.
* Add a free traffic report box to your homepage from Traffic.com. Scroll down the main page and click on “Traffic Magnets” at the bottom. Reports are available for 40 metropolitan areas across the United States.
* Add a free weather report box to your homepage from Weather.com. Click on “Weather Tools” and scroll down the page and click on “Weather on your Web site.”
When you add features to your Web site, make sure you include promotions in the print edition.