Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lots of changes at The Oneida Daily Dispatch

When we got our new website last fall, a few users told me they preferred our old one.
At the time I agreed.
The new website is an order of magnitude more complex on our end, but several orders of magnitude more powerful.
The truth is, when we launched we only had a rudimentary knowledge of how to operate our site; we could do the basics, but we were clearly in a hands-on learning experience.
We were one of the first in our company to adopt it. It was still a little rough around the edges. There have been major changes and upgrades since then.
This is why we’ve done little in the way of announcing our new website.
We’ve been spending a lot of time learning and providing feedback to the developers.
Plus, I knew that next week, next month the website will be better and better.
But while it’s still improving, in my opinion, it’s pretty darn good now.
I want to point out some of its features:
•New York News
On this page you’ll find a thorough AP news report, plus the most interesting stories, photos and videos from or sister news organizations in Kingston, Troy and Saratoga Springs. The page is completely redone with new stories early every morning and updated throughout the day and evening when news breaks.
•Sports News
This page is a mix of local stories and major national sports news.
Across the top you’ll see “Oneida sports,” “VVS sports,” “Canastota sports,” “Cazenovia sports,” “Camden sports” and “Southern Madison County sports.”
In other words, each of these districts has its own page, where you can still find stories, in chronological order, months after they were published.
This is new. Partnering with a firm called Eventful, the site features local and regional events and allows people to add theirs, which will appear on our site and others. There’s no catch; this is free publicity.
•Nation and World news
Our parent company, Digital First Media, is now the second-biggest local news organization in the U.S. We have a team focusing on World and National news for all our websites. The Dispatch now has excellent World and National pages that are constantly updated from a wide variety of sources, all the while freeing our editors here to focus on local and state news. Sweet.
There’s more, of course; many things are works in progress. But I hope you’ll agree it’s already a big improvement over our old website.
All this reminded me of our experience in February 2013, when we switched the newspaper to the new look and three-day printing schedule.
People said the type was too small, so we increased its size — twice. I hope people agree its lots more legible now.
This brings me to the real reason behind this blog.
It doesn’t matter what I think about our website, newspaper, app or Facebook page.
I can be replaced (don’t tell my boss). The Oneida Daily Dispatch got by for 100 years or so without me, but it can’t exist without readers.
The website and newspaper aren’t mine; they’re yours.
To that end, we are holding a pair of Community Media Lab events. One will focus on our digital efforts, the website, Facebook page, app, tweets and SMS. The other will focus on our newspaper.
There will be short demonstrations followed by question-and-answer sessions. The one-hour sessions will be held on successive Sundays.
•April 6, noon - 1 p.m.: The newspaper. I’ll demonstrate the nuts and bolts of how we put it together. I’ll explain the planning that went into the various pages and talk about how the three-day printing has affected it. There will be Dispatch people on hand to discuss delivery issues.

•April 13, noon - 1 p.m.: Digital. We’ll explore OneidaDispatch.com and show how stories, photos and videos are placed on it. We’ll take a look at our Facebook page and liveblogs. We’ll show our app and may have some information on our new one.