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Online evolution

OnlineEvolutionModern technology is constantly evolving and with it, the newspaper industry is making changes as well. While some newspapers are doing all they can to assert their online presence, others are still struggling to make themselves known on the Internet.

The Arch City Chronicle (circulation 5,000) in Saint Louis features a very basic website lacking the interactivity many other outlets are trying to achieve. The site provides a few articles and not much else, although it does offer readers the option of following the paper on Twitter. Some newspapers are still lacking a website altogether, such as the Carbondale Times (circulation 7,500) in Carbondale, Ill. However, others have decided to forfeit the print edition altogether, like Georgia’s Loganville Tribune (circulation 10,000) did in July 2010.

“Given the cost of newsprint and the time and cost required to print another edition each week, we decided to redouble our efforts in covering Loganville,” said David Clemons, editor and publisher of the Loganville Tribune, in an e-mail interview. “We’re trying to establish WaltonTribune.com and LoganvilleTribune.com as an extension of the brand we’ve built over 110 years.”

While the Walton Tribune (circulation 4,400) still offers a print edition, residents of the small town of Loganville, Ga., can now get their news instantly from the online newspaper.  The paper also offers an interactive element for visitors, allowing them to comment on stories.  Selected community members can also contribute to blogs on the site and readers are given the opportunity to contact the writers directly to discuss stories and comments.

As for the transition from print to online, the newspaper was accepted openly into the community. “The decision was taken well,” Clemmons said. “Most comments were positive. We’ve seen interest in our website increase, but it’s hard to say if that’s because of dropping a print edition or because we offer so much more now.”

Portland, Ore.-based Willamette Week’s website is another example of a newspaper site that has embraced the digital age. In addition to its existing print edition, the site offers interactive features and multiple blogs that are updated daily. “I tweet our best online stuff each day, as do most of our staff writers,” said Hank Stern, managing editor of the Willamette Week, in an e-mail interview.

As more publications embrace the digital age, will print editions still be able to thrive in smaller communities? “It’s hard to imagine given the current dynamics of Web advertising rates that there will be many online-only papers in the next year that make enough money from their websites alone to pay their writers a living wage,” said Stern, noting that the Willamette Week (circulation 90,000) has no intentions of going online-only.

Although some communities may not be willing to give up their print editions yet and others have yet to embrace the Web, local newspapers are not an exception to evolution, and adaptation of the digital age is most likely on the horizon.

–Kim Ropars

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