Duluth News Tribune
Editorial Update on Online Initiatives
Dec. 16, 2010

Editors: Describe your actions since the August conference. Tell us the names of individuals recruited in the community for the five key topics and how their contributions to the website are doing? How often do they contribute?

Arlene Coco Buscombe (food; daily) Arlene Coco's Prairie Kitchen

Peggy Anderson, (health; daily or every other day) Peggysue

Donna Ennis (family, community; weekly or every other day) Changing Elk

Community Action Duluth (money; financial advice for low-income households) Happy Returns

Commercial Development in Duluth (money/business; monthly) Commercial Duluth

Kay Biga, (travel) – commencing shortly (she’s on her trip to Italy!)

Joan Peterson, (family and health) – commencing shortly.

Also of note, outside of five target groups: UMD Bulldog Hockey blog, Zack Friedli (sports; 2-3 times a week) Bulldog Hockey

Some of these are high quality that we otherwise pay for. To make sure the contributors don’t burn themselves out or overtax themselves, we are recommending preprogrammed posting. We are also looking for ways to assure responses to their posts to encourage them.

What plans does your newspaper have of further expansion of Areavoices?

We recently held a very successful seminar on "How to Get Your Message in the Media" for which 50 representatives of Northland nonprofits ¬paid to get coverage tips from us and our TV news partner, our local community access cable channel and Minnesota Public Radio. Out of that came at least two blogs. There is no reason not to host a similar seminar concentrating on blogging and likewise soliciting contributors.

Blogging will also be recommended to those who regular make pitches to us for coverage.

Commencing the end of this month with the opening of our new convention center arena, a community contributed blog for Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra reviews is planned in which our staff-written review will be posted immediately after the concert and attendees invited to review it on their own.

Also, as mentioned above, we need to forge a concerted effort for responses to blogs. Suggestions welcomed on achieving this.

We also have an immense amount of reader-generated material in our Scrapbook section. DNT Scrapbook
Much of this would fall into the family, food and money categories. This is already posted on the main website; there is nothing stopping us from duplicating it in the Areavoices site. A message could be sent to the contributor inviting them to comment further on the piece.

Tell us how many times a day your website is updated?

We are updated continuously, at least every two hours in addition to whenever news breaks. City editors and the multimedia staff are individually assigned a specific posting time – one person at 7 a.m., another at 9, and so forth – to divide the load and assure all small items, such as routine press releases, are posted. Breaking news is posted immediately, as are school closings or other items of immediate import.

Who does the updating?

Copy editors, city editors, photo and multimedia staff.

How is the staff structured to maximize a more robust website?

The web reporter and multimedia editor begin at 7 a.m. each day, fixing any issues from the previous night and posting new morning news. Reporters write web versions of all stories (except exclusives that we don’t want immediately made public) and put into a web queue for posting by the editors in the two-hour shifts. City editors post breaking news as it occurs and copy editors post all stories (or latest versions of stories already posted) at the end of their shifts.
The multimedia editor keeps an eye on press releases and other news, as well as the stie’s maintenance, during out-of-office hours.
A morning and an afternoon alert for top news stories are sent daily, as well as fpr breaking news, and on weekends a news alert and at least one sports alert is sent each Saturday and Sunday.

Tagging – Are you utilizing the universal tags list and are staff tagging more with the universal list?

Absolutely. We have an online document available to every person responsible for posting that lists the universal tags and our house tag words that we sell.
Master tag list

Articles may now be tagged by cutting and pasting; no typing is necessary and no typing mistakes should occur. In fact, typing is not allowed. Only tags on the online list may be used and must be copied and pasted. We conduct meetings, both group and 1-on-1, to train individuals on what tags are used.

Give updates on staff training or directives in regards to multimedia

• All staff members are made constantly aware that the web is a core product. Newsgatherers are directed to look for multimedia aspects of stories they cover, e.g., photos, graphics and web links, video and audio possibilities. Reporters have been trained in basic point-and-shoot photography and videography.
• All staff who post articles have undergone tags meetings and training. These were held initially to introduce the new tags, again to teach the online tagging system, and periodically updated and reminded. Daily or weekly e-mails are sent to copy editors about tagging (giving them kudos for great work and reminders about things to work on)
E-mails are sent daily quantifying reader activity on the website Staffers (mainly sports) live-blog for popular UMD football and men's hockey teams; also significant high school games, especially at state tournaments
Reporters are all trained in using the CMS and may post in emergencies if an editor is unavailable.
• Reporters and editors are asked to urge news subjects to use and/or participate in our web products, such as (DNTV), especially on issues that don’t meet the standard for print news stories.
• Our overall strategy is to post all our staff-generated content and to increase and post reader-generated material, particularly in blogs under the five content areas. We also are looking for opportunities in coverage or with found/submitted material that can go viral, as have a number of our stories that were picked up by the Drudge Report. The significance of Drudge is that it links to our site rather than just rewriting or citing or our material as other aggregators do, sparking a huge amount of traffic. Our Oberstar/Cravaack story was picked up and generated 275,000 page views, far above our usual high of 15,000. Another story, of a man arrested for trespassing on his own land, was also picked up and generated similar numbers.
• A DNTV interview with Gov. Tim Pawlenty shot yesterday and slated for webcasting tomorrow also has this possibility with his reaction to a question posed to him about the 2012 election. We are alerting Drudge and have slated to run it tomorrow.
• Our lead copy editor frequently has extra time on his shift and is embarking on two projects: 1) To research other traffic-generating opportunities similar to Drudge pickups, and 2) To bring DNTV to live multiple camera webscasting
• Regarding the latter, live webcasting (with cutaways) will look like TV and allow us to do weather, live events of significant interest (such as major political debates) and other programming with higher production values that will significantly increase viewership. Target date is the next Duluth Days at the Minnesota Capitol in February.

Promotion

The above is meaningless without a print promotion component to tell readers what we’re doing and entice them to watch it. For the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon last year, we held a “Mystery Musher Contest” – guessing the identity of local celebrities dressed up in musher wear; something that could only be done on video. In-paper promotion accompanied the contest daily, bringing the final day’s DNTV audience to about 3,000 - three times our normal high. The number translates to roughly a 3-3.5 share in our television market, higher than two of our competing newscasts that hover around a 1 or 2.

TV Partnership

We have begun a multimedia print/TV partnership with the Northland’s NewsCenter, which is a conglomeration of four TV stations, including the region’s CBS and NBC affiliates. Rather than our reporters reading their stories as we did in our previous Fox TV partnership, our staffers will appear on NewsCenter’s channels as experts, usually on stories that we’ve broken and that everyone else is following. We also tease to the next day’s follow. NewsCenter, btw, is unquestionably the leader in self-promotion. In short, in return for our reporters giving their newscasts more depth, they will turn on their promotion machine for us.

Staff Blogs

Our staffers have generated some of the company’s most popular blogs, including AstroBob, Outdoors with Sam Cook and Rink and Run. While initially it seemed their audiences could take a hit from the new, and necessary, requirement that hourly workers restrict their blogging to work hours only, preprogrammed posting can be employed to keep blogs fresh (Keven Pates’ “Rink and Run,” for instance, has a greater audience in the morning. He works in the afternoons and evenings but will now preprogram his posts to appear in the afternoon to retain his morning audience.)

Social Media

The newspaper and individuals (bloggers, columnists, etc.) have social media accounts that direct readers back to the DNT website. Real number show more than 1,375 followers on Facebook, such as the Oberstar/Cravaack Facebook link and 1,250 on Twitter, with each growing daily.

Additional Online Tools

We have trained our coaches and athletic directors to submit sports scores and games summaries via an online submission system that goes directly to our sports desk, ready for minor page editing and posting.
Sports Scores Submission
We have nearly 100 percent participation and buy-in.

Community Newspapers

Our community properties will be introduced to preprogrammed posting as a way to keep their sites fresh (the weeklies, for instance, can post one or two stories a day following their date of publication.)

Superior and Cloquet have expressed strong interest in video and now have cameras. We will provide them with editing workshops.

Summary

The Duluth News Tribune and its community newspapers continue to dominate the web in our region. Now that a base of community-contributed blogs have been established, models exist for others to follow suit. We are constantly and strategically updating our site to keep it fresh and engaging. We are proactively working to secure opportunities for exponential growth through Drudge and other linking sites and mechanisms. We have established DNTV as a video alternative both for advertisers and publicists, especially for stories for which video is more appropriate. We have entered into a TV news partnership that will promote the Duluth News Tribune as the region’s expert, credible and reliable news source.