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GHS Newsroom
  • Web Cube: Content differentiation

  • Many of our Web sites launched with the expectation that everything that ran in print should go online. That is no longer the case. Below are guidelines designed to drive Web traffic and at the same time hold back exclusive content to keep our print products strong.

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  • Many of our Web sites launched with the expectation that everything that ran in print should go online. That is no longer the case. Below are guidelines designed to drive Web traffic and at the same time hold back exclusive content to keep our print products strong.
    Because our print and online products serve different audiences and goals, the formats and content that go in both should be different. This does not mean creating “Web-only text,” but formatting content differently and making decisions about what is appropriate for the different media.
    Based on analyses of GateHouse sites — in both small and large markets — we have established a variety of recommendations.
    Many factors were considered in producing this document, including analysis of content that should be protected in the print product based on its traditional popular value. Not every piece of content that your newspaper produces or every content situation you encounter is accounted for. When you run into content not addressed here, feel free to contact News & Interactive corporate staff to discuss those issues.
    Through working with News & Interactive corporate staff, local management should decide what should and should not go online, based on local site trends, though this guide should serve as direction. Below is an overview of the strategy.
    What should not go online:
    • Full cop or sheriff logs or blotters.
    • Public record (court proceedings, marriage licenses, birth announcements, etc.).
    • Long meeting stories (recommend offering seven inches of the biggest issue of the meeting, if not the top story in your paper that day).
    • Long, in-depth, text-and-photo-only projects (that aren’t breaking ground pieces).
    • Non-controversial, non-topical letters, columns, editorials, syndicated columns.
    • Community columns and general topical columns (such as library columns).
    • Most human-interest stories (unless they have a significant wow factor and would fall into an “I’m going to e-mail this to someone” category).
    • Feature stories of event coverage (school events, festivals, etc.). Photo galleries are a better fit for this kind of coverage.
    • Long game stories (similar to meeting stories, post the nuts and bolts of most game stories, unless it’s the big Friday night football game).
    • Most sports features.
    What should go online:
    • Breaking news.
    • Police briefs (posted as individual headlines).
    • Court stories.
    • Short meeting stories (as noted above).
    • General news stories.
    • Politics and election coverage.
    • Calendar content (as individual announcements where appropriate).
    • Controversial or highly topical letters, columns, editorials.
    • Useful features: recipes, tips, how-tos, entertainment, arts and dining.
    • Engagement, wedding and birth announcements.
    • Short game stories.
    • Announcements: sports clinics, sports camps, school closings, upcoming events, PSAs, weather alerts, press releases.
    Page 2 of 6 - Here is a more in-depth look at what content goes online and what does not:
    • Breaking news
    What should go online? All breaking news updates and breaking news multimedia, but these should primarily go into your News Now box or most recent stories area. If you are updating the story throughout the day, put the word “Update” before the headline.
    What should not go online? Nothing. If it is breaking news, post it as soon as you can. Traffic figures at GateHouse sites show repeatedly that breaking news is extremely popular with readers.
    Should full stories be posted? Only if more details and additional color add to the story. Many times your update will do the job. If a full story is offered, un-publish your update and post your full story to your homepage.
    • Police blotter
    What should go online? Pull the best items (two to three) for daily papers and (five to seven) from your weekly blotter for non-daily papers and post them as individual stories. Weekly papers should post content from their blotter daily.
    What should not go online? Don’t post your entire police blotter online as a single story.
    Why? Crime content has proven to be quite popular on many of our sites. Posting individual stories from your blotter creates the opportunity for more views. When staff members collect the daily police blotter, encourage them to obtain more information for several of the items, which then makes it easier to produce individual story posts from your blotter. Police blotter content in print has proven in most markets to be one of the most popular features. Allowing the full blotter to live in print and the highest potential online interest items to be on the Web allows content to succeed on both platforms.
    • Courts
    What should go online? Any court-related item that is part of your ongoing coverage or releases you receive from local or state court.
    What should not go online? Nothing. Post as much court-related content as you can.
    How should I present ongoing courts coverage? If you are covering a key court case, create a new story in Zope and add links to all of your coverage of that case. That story becomes your “landing page,” where readers can find all sorts of information about that case in link form. As part of every story you post on that case, offer a link back to the package.
    • Public record
    What should go online? Do not post public record listings, such as marriage licenses or blotter lists.
    Page 3 of 6 - Why? Record content is a traditional print offering and is often something readers pick the newspaper up for. Long lists are unwieldy for online readers to digest.
    • Meeting stories
    What should go online? Nearly all government meeting stories should be posted online.  Unless it is the most controversial story of the year, post the first few paragraphs of the print story (five or six) and run the “in other business” list at the bottom of the story.
    What should not go online? If the story is more of a process story and would typically fall inside your newspaper, you may not want to post the story.
    Why does this format work? Numerous surveys have shown that readers want the details in quick format online, and that is also true for our meeting coverage. This does not mean you have to rewrite the stories, but rather post the most important details and action items.
    • General news stories
    What should go online? Politics, business, announcements, press conferences and other significant event stories.
    Should these stories be normal print lengths (15 to 20 inches)? Most announcement and press conference content can go up as brief updates. Use the breaking news rule of additional detail and color to decide if the full “print” stories should go online under these topics.
    • Projects
    What should go online? If there is multimedia associated with the reporting, then you should post the content online. Examples would include maps, polls, video and photo galleries.
    What should not go online? If it is just straight text and photos, do not post it online, as most long, in-depth reading has proven not to engage online.
    • Elections
    What should go online? Full coverage of election news is recommended. This includes advance and night-of coverage. It is recommended that on Election Day, newspapers post results throughout the day and night.
    What should not go online? Nothing. Post all election-related content.
    How should content be packaged? Build a “landing” page or a package of links in Zope for all of your election content to live as you preview races. On the night of the election, consider live blogs of coverage and packaging all of your races in one big story with links to all the races.
    • Calendar
    What should go online? All content from all of your calendars (including lifestyle and sports) should be offered online on your calendar tab or application. Announcements of new events provide good update content and are good to publish to your News Now or recent update area, as well as having them live in your calendar area.
    Page 4 of 6 - How often should the calendar be updated? Update it daily with new submissions.
    • Obituaries
    What should go online? For sites that post obituaries in the content management system, obituaries should be posted as soon as they are received and edited.
    Where should obituaries appear? In the News Now section of your Web site. The style should read like this: Obituary: Person’s name, age and city. If your obits are produced through Legacy.com, you will have a feed for them turned on when you transition to the new template that will automatically feature the names on the homepage of your site in an Obituaries section.
    Why? Obituaries are a huge traffic driver. If readers know that they might be able to find content throughout the day, they are likely to return to your site throughout the day.
    Guidelines: If you are running obituaries as print-only content, paid or unpaid, also publish online as individual headlines in News Now and obituaries sections the name, age, hometown, date of death and paragraph announcing the services and where to send donations, if appropriate.
    • Opinion
    What should go online? Anything controversial or anything generating conversation in your community. All opinion content can go online, but it should be controversial or concern a significant community issue to go online. Political cartoons have proven to be popular. Sign up for a feed from the GateHouse News Service for cartoons to automatically post, or post local cartoons if you have them.
    What should not go online? Thank-you letters, general columns (that are not controversial), editorials (that are not controversial) and syndicated columns.
    Should regular columns appear from local writers and staff members? For the most part, they should not appear online. If the columnist has a significant following, consider posting it online, but most general columns are best fit for print. Unlike your print product, online readers are not necessarily looking for the same column on a specific day each week. If the column is controversial, you should post it.
    Why? Opinion content works online when that content takes strong stances. Lighter content and syndicate content has proven to be not as popular with readers, based on average analytics.
    • Lifestyle
    What should go online? Not everything. Some lifestyle content is useful to post. Those topics would include: food (recipes and tips), home and garden and health (how-to and tip-oriented content), entertainment (museums, theater, movies, art shows) and dining  (lists, previews, reviews and day trips).
    What should not go online? Most human interest stories, unless the story is extremely unique, a weird news story or a strong topical story, should not go online. An example of a strong topical story would be a piece on a home or historical renovation project. Most everyday features should not go online. Long feature stories on the topics above, such as features on the local hospital’s new piece of technology, should not go online. Coverage of events that is more than a day old should not go online. What should go online from event coverage are photo galleries from those events.
    Page 5 of 6 - Why? Content that is useful and can be used quickly, such as recipes and dining reviews, has proven to be high on page view reports across the company. Long feature stories that don’t fall into this area do not resonate as well.
    • Society and celebrations
    What should go online? Weddings, engagements, anniversaries and births. Any club photos should be posted in a weekly reader-submitted gallery.
    How should the content be packaged? Post the content as individual stories and create a subsection for each of the topics.
    When should the content be posted? If you are already publishing individual announcements with photos online, continue to do so. If you are not publishing such announcements online but preserving them as unique print content, publish them to the Web within one week after they run in print. This way, you get the print-only benefit but can also generate Web traffic with the same content.
    • Sports: game stories
    What should go online? Game stories should be posted online. But for regular-season games, don’t post a 20-inch game story. Just like meeting coverage, post the first five paragraphs of the game, along with a box score if you have one. Make sure the paragraphs touch on the leading scorers and score.
    What should not go online? Post it all, but post short stories.
    How should I package sports content? Since most of the sports content that is going online has to do with specific teams, consider creating subsections and landing pages for individual schools or team sports.
    Should we post scores as soon as games are over? For regular-season games (outside of prep football), the effort and return has proven not to be worth it. Analytics show that readers will go to our sites on Friday night for high school football scores, so post scores as games end in the fall. But the effort is not worth it in the winter and spring. Also, consider posting scores as soon as games end for prep state tournaments, but promote in print the fact that readers can find that content online.
    • Sports: other content
    What should go online? Outdoors content should have its own section, depending on your location, and all content, including the calendar, should be online. Sports announcements should fall into the News Now or latest section of your site and should be posted as they are received. Pro sports content in many markets may be a good fit for your sites, based on the popularity. If you decide to post this content, you need to ensure that all relevant wire content is moved on a timely basis.
    Page 6 of 6 - What should not go online? Sports features, for the most part, are a better fit for print, unless the feature is on a local celebrity.
     

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