The first component of the Web Cube strategy is constant local updates.
The goal | News that happens throughout the day should be published to different sections throughout local sites. Updates are in addition to the print content destined for online, and in many cases updates could also go into print.
How do we achieve constant updates on a consistent basis? A flow of consistent updates throughout the day is key to driving traffic on our Web sites. To achieve this goal while following the GateHouse Web and print content strategy, it is helpful to think of three layers of content — scheduled, News Now and print to Web — to organize the flow of content onto our Web sites.
Where some newsrooms may use too much print-to-Web content as the foundation of their Web updates, layer organization flips this on its head. Each of these layers builds upon the next to provide fresh content throughout the day.
• The three layers
Scheduled content | The layer of scheduled content utilizes a calendar posted in your newsroom or on your server listing specific pieces of Web content to be published on specific days every week by specific staff members. The goal with scheduled content isn’t to take a news story reported the night before and have it appear the next day, but to find content that has a “today feel” to readers that can be set the night before. Much of this content can be set up in advance to publish at set times. Scheduled content could include Morning Minutes (produced by GateHouse News Service), polls, photo galleries, This Day in History, today's weather and more. See the sample schedule on the next page to guide you in setting up a schedule for your newsroom.
News Now | With the new template, content in the News Now bucket should cycle through at least once a day. As the name implies, News Now is news posted to your Web site as it comes into your newsroom.
• Posts could include newsy press releases, weather alerts, city announcements, brief advances and agenda items for a government meeting that night, police briefs and more. These items should be three to four paragraphs and, when appropriate, can be timed to publish throughout the day. News items – hiring announcements, road closings, alerts – should be posted immediately. Some calendar items – a flu clinic or blood drive two weeks out, for example – could be set to publish within a day, but no longer.
• Some scheduled content can be published in the News Now bucket as well, including Morning Minutes, Today in History, sports results and schedules, and an event of the day.
• See the image for what a weeklong layer of scheduled content could look like, combined with News Now posts, to produce a consistent flow of content throughout the day. Breaking news, print-to-Web content and other updates would fill out the schedule.
Page 2 of 4 - One week of scheduled and News Now content:
Print to Web | The final layer of content, on top of scheduled and News Now, is print-to-Web content following the GateHouse strategy. Print-to-Web content does not have to be published in a single dump.
Consider each piece and decide two things: Does it fit the strategy? And what is the best time to publish it to the Web? News items should be posted promptly. News features and other appropriate content could be timed to contribute to consistent updates through the day.
What’s an update? Anything that is happening throughout the day. Based on the market, the definition of an update could change drastically. For larger newspapers, hard news and breaking news should flow throughout the day, but in smaller markets, simple press releases, police briefs and other community announcements make up updates.
What are examples of updates? Start by posting press releases and other easy-to-collect information, and over time move into posting short write-ups from coverage.
Here are some specific examples:
• Breaking news | When you are covering a breaking-news event, consider posting several paragraphs on the nuts and bolts of the coverage when you get to your newsroom or call it in to the newsroom when possible.
• Events and meetings | Anything that a reporter is attending that is happening during the day can be turned into an update. After attending a morning or afternoon meeting or event, post three or four paragraphs of the biggest news to come out of the event.
• Police briefs | Checking in with local police in the morning or after a morning deadline can make for great update content. Pull items out of your police blotter — the longer items — and post them as updates.
• Courts | Any press release you get announcing a development in an ongoing court case makes for a great update.
• Obituaries | These remain one of the most viewed items on your site, so post obituaries as you get them to your homepage as individual stories. See “What goes online and what doesn’t” section for more specific recommendations.
• Press releases | Any release that makes an announcement can qualify as an update, such as announcements of upcoming events, appointments and public service notices.
• Sports | Post announcements on clinics and camps as you get them. Every night before your sports editor leaves, have that editor post a schedule of games and scores from that night to appear the next morning.
• Weather | Post weather watches and alerts as you get them. Sign up for alerts from the National Weather Service. Get information here on how to sign up for the alerts: www.ghnewsroom.com/article/make-it-easy-get-weather-information-sign-local-alerts.
Page 3 of 4 - • School closings and traffic reports | Post school closings as updates in a document of all closings. Any release from the city or state on traffic should be posted.
How many updates should we post? Expectations change by newspaper size. Reporters and writing editors should post at least two updates a day. Here are some basic guidelines, but customized expectations are established for individual newsrooms:
• 20 staff members and larger: 15 to 20 local updates a day
• Six to 19 staff members: 10 to 15 local updates a day
• One to five staff members: Five to 10 local updates a day
When should updates be posted? They need to occur throughout the day, so posting sports scores to release in the morning helps. Individual reporters and writing editors typically should post an update before noon and one after noon. Posts should primarily go up between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. You can post items to release at specific times in Zope. If a staff member is working a later shift, that staffer should post an item to release in the morning.
Who should post the update and edit it? If updates are press releases or announcements, the reporter or editor of that item should post the content, but if it is of a more serious nature, the item should be edited but can still be posted by reporters.
How should headlines for updates and the Web be written? Web headlines are very different than print headlines. It is important that you include many specific details in headlines. While headlines should be fewer than 10 words for the most part, many times, a good print subhead makes a great Web headline. A headline and short story should be filled out for all stories. Short stories should not be the first paragraph of your story, but more like a subhead.
How can my stories get picked up by Google? Many factors contribute to search engine optimization (stories ranking high in Google or showing up in a Google alert). Below are the most important things that — if done correctly — can help your stories rank higher in Google:
To have your story appear at the top of a Google search list, make sure that specific names of organizations, teams and businesses are used in several areas in your story. The key words that someone would search for need to be displayed in the following priority list:
2. First graph of the story
3. Beginning of a paragraph
4. Photo file names in Zope
5. Photo captions
For example, a story on the death of a local track star should be handled in the following way:
• Headline | Joe Smith, high school track star, dies in Normalville car crash
Page 4 of 4 - • Lede | Normalville — Joe Smith, a 2008 Normalville Regional High School graduate, was killed in a car crash Sunday night.
Feature headlines that appear in print should never be used online as the only information in the headline. For example, for the story above a print headline may be “Remembering a star.” That works in print because you likely have a subhead appearing, maybe a photo and other layered information that helps the reader understand what the the story is about. However on the Web, often the only thing the reader sees is the headline. A possible headline: “Remembering a star: Joe Smith, Normalville high school track star, dies in car crash.”