Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Extension & integration in Tacoma

Chris Hendricks and I spent a productive hour with executives from the Tacoma News Tribune this week reviewing progress they have made across a wide front of print/online integration and extension projects. Similar efforts are underway throughout the company in various iterations; rarely are so many moving ahead so well together. Here are some highlights from my notes:

  • Podcasts are being used to provide behind-the-scenes reports with writers and photographers. Any way we can share "how I got that story" and other informative reports with readers will help build credibility and increase transparency. Learning how much work your staffers go through to produce a detailed investigative report, or how the creative team worked to present a photo package on deadline will help demonstrate how we add value to information, a key differentiation for our news reports.
  • Although still new and limited in number, blogs have quickly established themselves as a leading draw for TNT online. (It probably doesn't hurt to have your local football team go to the Super Bowl). In addition to sports, they blog food, real estate and nightclubs. A shared editors' blog, military affairs blog and guide to local online sites are soon to come.
  • A continuous news desk, located in a refurbished pod in the middle of the newsroom, has animated live news updates for the website. Staffed starting at 6 a.m., the operation keys on weather and traffic for early drive-time reports as well as breaking news.
  • Photo galleries featuring staff work and photo submissions from readers both help attract traffic. A dozen reader/photogs were selected to help document hourly segments of a recent "Day in the Life" photo feature on the site and in the paper.

TNT continues to extend in other ways, with numerous staffers participating in radio programs, appearing in classes and at civic functions, and organizing community participation events. The paper is currently gearing up to sponsor a community forum on the topic of gay marriage, with the goal of being able to convene and host the event within 48-hours of an anticipated Washington Supreme Court ruling.

The take-away here is that sustained effort on a variety of projects is key to building momentum for change, especially in early stages. Audiences for many initiatives will be small, particularly at first, and even newsroom constituencies may be limited. But if we keep trying – reenforcing success and reengineering when we miss – we can make real progress to meeting changing audience needs.
– Howard Weaver

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