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The New Era starts 2018 with a new face – on the web

 

January 10, 2018 | View PDF



Happy New Year!

2018 is starting out with a better face for The New Era.

Finally – and I’ll explain that in a moment – we have a new website.

If you’ve visited us at sweethomenews.com in recent years, you probably found a web presence that has been functional, at a very basic level, but not much else. Web presence has not been one of our strengths.

However, I think we’re going to do better from here on out.

Our new website went live on Jan. 1, following a long and arduous process that actually lasted about five years and involved a number of sputtering starts toward this goal that petered out for various reasons.

When I hear someone tell me they are going to develop a new website, they have my sympathy.

We’ve built a couple ourselves over the years, one for our Lebanon Local monthly newspaper, and they work reasonably well. But when you start adding all the bells and whistles, which are pretty much standard expectation for most of us these days, things can get complicated on the set-up end.

Part of the challenge is that while web design isn’t rocket science (despite what high-priced providers may tell local public agencies and organizations who’ve paid beaucoup bucks to get on line), it does take time and a degree of expertise to develop a reliable website that can provide helpful features and content.

We have some expertise here on staff, but we don’t have time, which is why it’s taken this long to reach our goal. I often tell people that life is never dull at your local newspaper, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s amazing how well-laid plans to do such-and-such by so-and-so blow up in this business. That’s why, well-laid plans to create a new site by, well, about three or four years ago, kept getting put on hold.

And that’s why I’m excited (an overused word in today’s world of hype, but an appropriate one in this case) to introduce the new version of sweethomenews.com. It’s been running for 10 days and so I’m feeling confident that it’s time to draw your attention to it.

Here are some of the features that we’ll all enjoy, either right away or very soon:

- Photos – We shoot a lot of great photos, particularly in sports, which never see the light of day because we simply don’t have space in the print edition of The New Era to be able to publish them. Sometimes, really strong photos get passed over because they’re the wrong size or shape to fit available space.

Our former website only allowed us to post two photos per story without time-consuming effort (coding by hand). This one gives us the opportunity to not only post larger photos but to add a display of multiple photos at the top or bottom of a story. Plus, if you click on the “Photos” button at the top, you can access photo galleries that are much improved over what we had previously.

- Story Display – Our former site displayed stories in the order they were posted. This one displays them by date of publication, which will be posted by the date of the printed publication – Jan. 10, 2018 in the case of this week’s edition.

One thing I found difficult about our old site was that once stories had dropped off the visual page in front of a viewer, they were hard to find unless you knew ahead of time what you were looking for.

- PDF Version – Want to see the real thing? We can now post a PDF edition of the print version of the paper, viewable at the upper right of the home page at the “View PDF” icon. It gives readers another way of reading the paper on their computers. This is pretty standard on a lot of newspaper websites, but we’ve never been able to offer that option.

- Mobile Edition – I’m not even going to comment. Just check out the new version.

- Archive Searches – This new site is vastly improved over our former one in that there are multiple ways to search for news and the archives have been expanded back to when The New Era first went on line, in August of 2000.

Due to technical difficulties, we had not been able to include that content until now. Also, the old site was very crotchety when it came to actually producing stories I’d be looking for.

This one is a vast improvement. Just tap the magnifying glass icon above the “View PDF” feature, type in all or part of the key word(s) you’re looking for, and bingo – an exhaustive list of stories going back to, well, 2000. Also, when you’re actually in a story, you can also click on a reporter’s byline or other highlighted keywords to see all the other stories that reporter has produced or that pertain to the topic.

- Subscriptions – Although many readers renewed their subscriptions via our old website, it was lacking in many areas. This new site will offer security features and rely much less heavily on email than the old one did.

- Paywall – Our old website didn’t allow viewers to see anything for free, unless we just left the paywall down, which we did occasionally for news that we felt was critical to the community in terms of timeliness or impact.

The new site will allow visitors a limited number of “freebies” each month before they will have to subscribe to get more.

For the time being, as we ramp it up, we’ve taken down the paywall completely, which means those who aren’t web subscribers can browse to their hearts’ content. Remember that if you’re a print subscriber, your web subscription is free. That isn’t changing.

There’s more, but this is probably an adequate introduction. We are definitely interested in what you think, so please email me at scott@sweethomenews.com if you have comments. If we can’t offer everything you might want, I think we’re a lot closer than we were a month ago.

 
 

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