We’re adding service as online traffic grows
KAREN PETERSON; executive editor
The News Tribune has just redesigned its front page. Didn’t notice it?
It’s not the front page printed on the back of this page – it’s the front page as seen from your iPad. A month ago if you went to thenewstribune.com from your iPad, you saw the regular Web page presentation. It looks swell, but all those tiny headlines are tough to navigate with a finger on a smaller touch screen.
Now if you point your iPad in our direction, you’ll see a page designed specifically for your tablet. While the site is just as deep, the front page has fewer, larger pictures and headlines, making it easier to navigate by touch.
Not everyone – including me – owns an iPad, but each year the newsroom finds itself tackling a new technology that’s become popular with our readers. Each requires a slightly different presentation. In December, computer tablets such as the iPad brought us 20,500 unique visitors. A year earlier, there were none. With only one full-time developer in the newsroom, we can’t reconfigure our content for each new format, but it’s important we keep up with the most popular ones.
Last year, we launched headlong into social media, posting our stories on Facebook and connecting with readers through Twitter. In December, about 27,000 unique visitors came to us from Facebook and 16,000 more from Twitter. A year earlier, we had none.
Also last year, the number of people – like me – who began reading news on their phones exploded, so we developed a new Web page that works on the tiniest of screens. By December, smart phones accounted for about 118,000 unique visitors, up more than 300 percent from a year earlier.
Although the viewing experience is a bit different on each, Facebook, Twitter, smart phones and tablets essentially bring readers back to thenewstribune.com
. Their popularity is part of the reason for the jump in our website traffic, which grew 28 percent from 2009 to 2010. By December, 1.2 million unique visitors were coming to our website.
Boosting online traffic helps our bottom line. Basically, newspapers pick one of two business models for their online operations: Either they make people pay to see their stories, which naturally leads to fewer visitors, or they give their stories away and sell advertising on the site. We’ve chosen the latter, at least for now. The more online traffic we garner, the more advertisers will pay to be on our pages. Online advertising now accounts for about 20 percent of our total.
Just as the newsroom is learning to use new digital tools, so is our advertising department. Last week, they launched a product called “Find n Save.” This partnership with the popular online service Groupon provides readers with coupons to local businesses and provides smaller businesses a low-cost way to advertise on our site.
The Find n Save ad sits on the right-hand side of our website and shouts out “Today’s big deal.” On Saturday it offered a $35 gift certificate to a local restaurant for $17. Clicking on that box leads readers to a page filled with other coupons to print or share with a friend. Johnny’s Dock, Big 5 Sporting Goods and Garlic Jim’s were among the hundreds of businesses posting coupons yesterday. Readers can even sign up for e-mail alerts of the daily deals.
TNT STAFF NEWS
A familiar byline in the paper is going away. Les Blumenthal, our longtime Washington, D.C., Bureau reporter, retired Friday.
For more than two decades, Les kept tabs on our congressional delegation and our issues on the hill, from sales tax deductions to the Boeing tanker deal. He also developed a side franchise covering the Northwest environment, history and icons. This native Oregonian is headed back to his home state for some fresh air and relaxation.
We’ve already filled the slot with veteran reporter Rob Hotakainen. He has covered the nation’s capitol for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, The Kansas City Star and, most recently, The Sacramento Bee. You can contact Hotakainen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s unusual these days that a news operation the size of The News Tribune would be able to maintain staffing in D.C.,” said John Henrikson, our politics editor, “but we think it’s important, and so does our parent company.”
The other new byline you’ve seen recently belongs to Katie Schmidt. Schmidt is an intern working in the TNT Olympia bureau. She comes to us from the University of Washington Legislative Reporting Internship program. She grew up on Shaw Island in the San Juans and worked previously for the Mercer Island Reporter and seattlePI.com
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434