I recently ran across a book copyrighted in 1901 titled, "Establishing a Newspaper." It's a step-by-step how-to for starting a newspaper. Appallingly, it made no mention of asking potential readers what they wanted or needed in a community newspaper. The author went into selecting headline type, setting rates, establishing a subscriber list and collecting on outstanding invoices, but never on how to publish news and information that is important to the people of the community.
It seems as if in 1901, would-be publishers had the "if you build it they will come" attitude. And, in fact, that was pretty much the case. The local newspaper was THE source of news, local and otherwise.
Now we have a world of multiple news sources and an amazing tool called the Internet. Unfortunately, until recently, most media groups maintained the 1901 "if you build it they will come" attitude when it came to their online presence.
There are as many versions of electronic media as there are newspapers. More actually, because some communities have a Web site and no printed newspaper. Just proves that, unlike in 1901, there is no handbook for a one-size-fits-all news vehicle.
With the world turning "green," the Weekly has received a few requests for an electronic version/edition of our paper from readers in our community.
We currently have a lot of the stories found in the print edition as headlines on our Web site and a PDF version, with links to all the stories, of all print editions online. (If you're unfamiliar with these, scroll to the bottom of DanvilleWeekly.com.) The PDF is the electronic duplicate of the newspaper, because it is created by the same files we send to the press.
Moving into the next phase of media, with the full knowledge that the "if you build it they will come" attitude is antiquated and thinking we know what readers want is arrogant, publishers are wondering what exactly to build electronically.
I would like to hear from you about what type of electronic vehicle you would like to see: Would you like to receive an e-mail with headlines that link to the Web site? How often: daily, twice a week or weekly?
Would you like to see a digital reproduction of the paper that is interactive? A combination of these? What is the advantage of having a list of headlines, or a PDF?
If you send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your advice, suggestions and/or examples, your name will be put in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant. I will share some of these suggestions and the name of the certificate winner in another column.
This is your community news source - whether you like reading your news in print, online, from your Blackberry, whatever - and we want your opinion.
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