Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weekly newspaper in Western Kentucky shows blogs don't have to be just for big-city dailies

The Crittenden Press in Marion, Ky., prints its 4,000 copies in black and white each Wednesday on one of the older presses in the state. Online, however, the newspaper and its editor, Chris Evans (left), are trying to stay ahead of the technological curve. The newspaper set a bold goal of tripling its online ad revenue this year, and as part of that effort, Evans started a blog in late 2007. In addition, the newspaper has started posting video clips to YouTube — and linking them to the paper's Web site. Evans said both the blog and videos have helped drive traffic to the site, with a minimal investment of time and technology that other small papers can afford.

Evans began blogging back in late 2007 because he wanted to update the paper's site when news broke between editions. The site's content was tied to one computer that stayed in the newsroom, but a friend in the publishing industry suggested that Evans use a blogging service that would allow updates from any computer at any time. He uses Blogger, which The Rural Blog began using last summer.

The new blog's birth in January coincided with a severe ice storm in Western Kentucky, so the newspaper's blog quickly became a key way for the newspaper to share information. With power issues interfering with the paper's printing, and leaving many residents without electricity, Evans set up outside the local library and used its WiFi to post updates on repairs to downed power lines and other information. He learned that people from outside Crittenden County were reading the blog and calling relatives there to tell them about the updates.

"It was educational for me because I learned how good a tool it good be," Evans said. He posts about twice a day, often highlighting breaking news or upcoming projects the paper has in the works.

"I use it to kind of supplement what we do in our print product," he said. "I do have people that pick up a paper and say 'I saw where you doing a story on this.' I know it's working. People stop me in the grocery store and say something about it. It's especially good to know people are going online in this rural community and getting satisfaction where they used to get it only on Wednesdays."

Because Evans keeps his laptop with him constantly — "might as well be a watch on my arm," he said — he is able to post quickly from home or the office or wherever. Because the blog is Web-based, no space in the newspaper or in its servers is sacrificed. The blog helped pave the way for making YouTube videos to accompany newspaper reports. At the same time, he said the technology can't just be for technology's sake. "You get really excited about your new technology, but you don't want to forget your bread and butter," he said.

The lesson here is that blogs and Web videos aren't just for big dailies — small weeklies can get in the game thanks to free, Web-based software. Small newspapers can add such features without sacrificing lots of time or money, and this new technology can be help deliver the "bread and butter" of community journalism.

1 comment:

Bonita Hatfield said...

Great job by Chris Evans. It gives instant insite to events around town. Chris is so talented he is making the little dot on the map into a big blob.