For years, we in the newspaper business have been warned of the impending invasion that the World Wide Web will have on our beloved black ink and precious paper. They have prepared us for the worst and we have already seen the start as even college journalism students are admitting they prefer to get all their daily updates with a quick push of the mouse.
In all of this newspaper’s 114 years covering the community, never has there been such a dramatic change in the way we must present the news. For a bi-weekly publication with a fairly small circulation and rural readership (that is, compared with the big dailies), the Herald-Review has held her own quite well and jumped into cyberspace following the direction of the mother-ship, Superior Publishing Corporation. Like all of our sister papers, the Herald-Review started enticing those online readers with an electronic version of our beloved black ink and precious paper by posting our biggest news stories as well as daily obituaries, births, weddings, engagements and such. Even Ol’ Central School joined the online world with our logo on our Web site.
Then, they told us just being online wasn’t going to be enough to keep our readership interested. We needed fancy features, like pod casts, video clips, blogs, automated polls, e-mail alerts. Soon, our bi-weekly paper would be a daily paper online.
While most of us in the office agreed that today’s technology needed to be utilized in order to stay on top of things in the 21st century, some of us were skeptical as to whether the number of our online readers was really growing as fast as they claimed—until now.
That old adage, “no one will notice until you make change,” has certainly proven to be true. As the first Minnesota paper, among our new owner’s holdings, to get a new online look, we’ve been playing the guinea pig for cheers as well as plenty of jeers—especially since it’s been an ever-evolving construction process these past few weeks.
Some of the more poignant responses include:
“What is going on with that paper of yours? I am very disappointed in your online service.”
“This site is not ready for viewing. Why the change? And why so drastic?”
“I have been reading the Herald-Review online for the past 10+ years. As of Jan. 3, 2008 your attempt to change the Web site appears to be a miserable failure.”
“Whoever is managing your Web site ought to be taken out back to the woodshed!”
Other readers have written to express their frustrations with the new registration requirement; some say they can’t find our online obituaries; and one person informed us of the embarrassing fact that our contact information was nowhere to be found on our new site.
Every day, we are working at improving this new look of ours to provide easier access and utilize the fancy features as well as post our contact information. The comments we’ve received, while sometimes harsh, have been honest—and beneficial. For, now we know that the Herald-Review has laid a stake in cyberspace and there actually are a lot of people reading us there.