For those of you familiar with iPad’s Flipboard, you’ll notice some similarities in the way USA Today’s beta site presents entries into other sections. It’s also a very visually driven site, and note the bar at the bottom of the page, with icons directing you how to “get the paper” or leave feedback.
Overall, the beta site feels very tablet/small-screen-focused.
What do you think of the redesign? What aspects do you like or dislike? And what do you think of the redesigned newspaper?
Since going to work for the Roanoke Times I’ve become a collector of the various books the newspaper has published over the years.
Visit a Timesland used bookstore or antique mall on the right day and you can find books of Ben Beagle’s columns or commemorative reprints of the Roanoke Times’ front page over the years.
These days, the Roanoke Times is not likely to publish a book for sale.
Admittedly, I’ve been a little slow to jump on the eBook train. I still like haunting used bookstores and looking for bargain finds there, and although I love turning pages, I have little desire to read my favorite tomes on a Kindle, Nook or iPad.
But I recognize the technology’s potential. EBooks have removed much of the cost and materials associated with publishing books, making it easier for unknown authors to publish their work.
Newspapers have already started to jump on board. The Los Angeles Times published its first eBook last fall, and the New York Times reports that other publications – Politico, the New Yorker and Huffington Post, among others – are doing the same.
I think that one of the Times’ greatest assets is its archives. Librarian Belinda Harris looks after files on a variety of subjects and individuals, plus an archive that dates back to the 1890s. She uses that to collect and write each week’s “Looking Back” feature.
So I wonder: Is there an audience for eBooks collecting past material from the Roanoke Times?
I’ve got plenty of other ideas for Roanoke Times eBooks I’d like to see:
–The rise of Republicans in Virginia’s General Assembly.
– A collection of Beth Macy’s best stories and columns (which could be timed in conjunction with her upcoming book about John Bassett III and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co.)
– An annual collection of Virginia Tech football reporting.
– The life and times of former Roanoke Mayor Noel Taylor.
– The wild and wooliest true crime tales of Timesland.
Those ideas deal just with existing material and don’t even begin to scrape the surface of the potential for long-form writing on news that’s breaking now. ProPublica published a gripping story last month that also spawned a radio show (and subsequent podcast) on This American Life and also an eBook. It’s clearly a rare story that merits that treatment, but to my mind that ProPublica story and the way it was published indicates a brave new world for enterprise journalism.
Would you read Roanoke Times eBooks? If so, what collections would you like to see?
And by way of background, incidentally, here’s a short video with one of the past books published by The Roanoke Times. This is the newspaper’s 100th anniversary publication, which I borrowed from education reporter Courtney Cutright’s desk.
This post is from Phil Woods, Digital Product Manager.
Quick Response (QR) codes are the square matrix barcodes that are popping up everywhere from product packaging, to retail displays, to print advertising, to billboards. While QR codes simply store text, the most common use of QR codes is to provide a link to digital content from mobile devices.
To access QR code content, you’ll need a QR reader app on your smartphone or tablet. The app will use your device’s camera to scan and decode the QR code. As an example, scan the barcode below to download my contact information to your contact list.
There are countless potential uses of QR codes for a newspaper. For example, a QR code can link to an online video or a photo gallery for news stories. Similarly, QR codes could link to the latest online updates for a developing story. For a few other examples of QR use, check out 39 ways newspapers can use QR codes.
What are your impressions of QR codes?
If we started using QR codes more regularly, would you scan them?
“Telling great stories and designing successful experiences is never easy. Whether the team or the organization is small, limited resources can limit but they can also inspire great creativity. Several small teams and organizations stood out in this year’s competition. The Roanoke Times is emblematic of the challenges of a smaller community and team. Roanoke’s coverage may not be able to be as broad as national or international news organizations but it is deep within their community. The multimedia storytelling explores highly personal issues and forces viewers to confront issues that rarely surface in their daily lives.”
Thank you, SND!
And if you’re curious, the winner of the World’s Best Designed site is the revamped bostonglobe.com.
If you answered our poll last week, we asked a question on whether you read stories that are trending — whether they are most-read, most-commented or most-shared.
This question is important to us because it helps us gauge audience interest in a story. In our morning news budget meetings, we look at stories that are most-read on our site, and the most-searched terms as well. Sometimes, the most-searched terms have led us to stories we wouldn’t have otherwise found — such as this week’s obituary of local stylist Mitchell Brumfield. It’s another source of information for us.
Automotive News' trending tool
But there are many ways to present trending stories, and find the latest stories as well.
Thanks to all who posted their thoughts on what their top 3 rules would be for commenting.
Here’s how it seemed to boil down: Respect for other posters was the No. 1 priority. That was followed by variations of staying on topic; not dominating the conversation; and of course, don’t post anything libelous and/or slanderous.
Of debate: How to report violations? In the Pilotonline.com example we showed earlier, the site allowed commenters to flag comments for violation. But there seems to be debate on whether this should be a moderator’s responsibility instead.
In a system where comments are automatically approved, like pilotonline.com’s, it might be helpful if commenters could flag comments they thought violated standards and policy. It would be a nice backup for moderators. However, it could be easy to abuse the system, too.
Have you ever flagged another commenter’s comments? How did that process go?
How you share:
It was interesting to discover how sharing differs on different platforms.
For instance, our commenters seem more likely to use the share functions on stories from mobile devices than they would on desktops. This is because it’s easier to cut and paste a link on a computer than on mobile devices.
And sending direct links seems to increase the chances that a story will be read, mostly because the sender typically sends links that they know the receiver will be interested in. This makes sense.
Stories shared on Facebook and Twitter are treated a little more like news wires … you might read it when you scroll through your updates, but it’s of secondary interest.
Check back next week for a poll on sharing preferences.
News of the day
We know some of you have strong feelings about using your Facebook profile to comment. Turns out The Daily Progress in Charlottesville just changed its commenting system to tie into Facebook accounts. An excerpt:
“Beginning Thursday, there will be no more anonymous comments on DailyProgress.com.
We are integrating Facebook’s commenting abilities with DailyProgress.com, so with one username and password, you can share your comments on both websites. Your name and Facebook photo will appear next to your comments. …
With this move to Facebook comments, we’re keeping the conversation honest and real. We wouldn’t run a letter to the editor without identifying the writer. Now, the rules will be the same online.”
One of the measures of a popular story is how often it’s read — either directly from the story’s host page or through sharing.
Sharing is how stories can become viral — and research has shown that you’re more likely to read a story (or watch a video or click through a photo gallery) if someone you know sent it to you as a link. Shared stories also get traffic via Facebook and Twitter.
According to an October 2011 story on poynter.org, each pasted link in September 2011 received an average of 200 click-throughs, while links shared via a social network button averaged only a few clicks. The number came from Greg Cypes, director of product for Clearspring Technologies, the parent company of AddThis, which provides sharing tools embedded on millions of websites.
The social network numbers may be changing however, as some of the most popular stories The Roanoke Times has shared on its Twitter and Facebook accounts have averaged around 200 click-throughs.
The Roanoke Times' current sharing tools
As we continue discussing our redesign, we’d like to find out more about your sharing habits. Here are the questions for you:
1. Do you often share content?
2. If so, how are you most likely to share it? (via email, social media, etc.)
3. Do you use website-based sharing tools, or do you send direct links?
4. If someone you know shares a story with you (either via email or social media sites), are you more likely to read it?
In this age of incredible access to information, there are many ways users can get news. Twitter, for instance, delivers news in 140 characters (actually fewer once you include a link).
But how often do you follow that link to read the story? And if you do go to the story, what do you want to see or do once you’re there?
The indelibility of the Internet allows news organizations to provide deep context on many stories via links to past stories or even tangentially related stories. The question is do we? How useful would it to be a reader?
New York Times Topics page
The New York Times, for instance, offers it on a Times Topics page (see left): “Each topic page collects all the news, reference and archival information, photos, graphics, audio and video files published on topics ranging from A M Castle & Company to Zyuganov, Gennadi A. This treasure trove is available without charge on articles going back to 1981.”
Add to that the fact that there are different types of news consumers out there (read this 2009 blog post by Erik Gable) — the one who just wants a headline, the one who skims just the first half of a story, the one who wants to read and comment, the one who just cares about comments — is there a way for a news organization to cater to all these needs?
As an example, what do you think of the digest that CNN provides on each of its stories (see below, left-hand side under “Story Highlights”)? Does that help the skimmer? And how do we provide the history of a story without bogging down the latest story? As links on the side or within the story? As a separate page such as the New York Times does?
CNN "story highlights" feature
We’ve been discussing comments, so what do we offer the person who’s more interested in the comment thread? A way to pull that up first? A digest box for comments?
Is any of this dependent on the type of story it is?
In a comment to Gable’s story, Michael Andersen wrote: “In general, I think it’s a good idea for journalists to start spending more time rewriting our reporting for multiple audiences. First write the tweet, then the bullet-pointed Cliffs Notes version, then the traditional daily story, then answer questions in the comments.”
The key, as Gable put it, is engagement. We want to engage readers of all types with our stories, but we want to do it in a way that is useful and makes sense.
The Roanoke Times is redesigning its website, roanoke.com.
As the project continues, we want to hear from readers who have ideas and can help us build our future online. This is the place for those conversations and for the latest news about our redesign. | Meet the feedback team
Also look for updates on other new digital offerings, including our tablet and mobile apps.