The Tyler Telegraph recently garnered some recognition in the newspaper industry after it launched a new photo service in connection with its Web site. The change has led to increased pageviews on the site, driving its average to 500,000 per month. The new feature allows the newspaper’s photographers to upload all the photos taken at events they cover, as well as allowing the public to upload their own photos. The photo idea is modeled on the success of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
The Brownwood Bulletin’s Web site, www.brownwoodbulletin.com has quietly been approaching that many monthly pageviews for the past year. Over the past four months alone, the newspaper’s site has averaged more than 480,000 pageviews per month. Our online photo feature has been in place for nearly three years and features hundreds of photos most of the year, and thousands of pictures during football season.
This past Monday, Loudon County, Va., made news in the media world when it became the launching site for what is being called a “hyper-local” Web site. The new effort, created by the Washington Post, is designed to focus on the fast-growing area that was chosen for the launch. According to an article published on Online Media Daily, Loudon County is a “county with a real local identity.” The “hyper-local” online edition follows in the footsteps of a focused print edition that is included twice a week as part of the Washington Post.
The Bulletin and other community newspapers have followed the concept of “hyper-local” for decades and unlike many regional and metropolitan newspapers have seen our readership grow. The Bulletin’s online edition has averaged nearly 140,000 visitors per month (or more than 4,660 readers per day) during 2007. Those visitors, about half of whom live outside the Brownwood trade area, are not visiting the Bulletin’s site for state, national or international news. They are coming to the site to read about the people and events of Brown County, or put another way, hyper-local news.
Web surfers have come to expect a growing number of whistles and bells at the sites they visit. From videos and search engines to games and hyperlinks, Web sites are becoming more interactive in order to grow. Sites that don’t have content in place to drive pageviews must turn to technology in order to attract visitors the first time, and then new whistles and bells to encourage them to return. In these cases the Internet is used as a form of entertainment, rather than to gather information.
Content-driven sites, such as online newspapers, attract visitors based on the information they make available. That is one of the primary reasons the Bulletin’s online presence continues to grow — the content found on www.brownwoodbulletin.com, which is almost exclusively local.
All this is not to say the Bulletin is doing everything right with its Web site, or that there isn’t room for improvement. As technology continues to change, so will our ability to add additional features like video. Advertising networks giving online shoppers or job hunters greater choices are becoming more popular as well. Those features will only be added as long as they complement the mission of our site, which will remain providing local information.
Larger newspapers and Web sites may be receiving national attention for what they are doing with their products, but the numbers bear out the big guys are simply discovering what some of us smaller guys have known for years. Call it community-focused, hyper-local or whatever you like, but readers of all types want to know what’s going on where they live.
That is what is important to them and drives readers to the Bulletin, to either the print edition or online.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.