Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: April 10, 2007
From the Onion: Most e-mailed list tearing NYT newsroom apart:
Nagourney, currently stuck covering Barak Obama’s presidential campaign in Minnesota, said he’s been trying to make his stories more e-mail-friendly. But so far, success has eluded him.
“I thought my Elizabeth Edwards breast cancer article the other week had a great chance, as it was at the intersection of politics, health, death, and familyâ€”and had the word ‘breast’ in the headlineâ€”but it didn’t even make the top 10,” Nagourney said. “Whatever.”
I’ve seen first hand how much consternation the most-viewed and most e-mailed lists can cause among newsroom staffers. “What do you mean, my 40-inch think piece on the new county budget only had 10 page views?”
On the Feds-NewMedia e-mail discussion list (run by the NAA), a discussion about nation and world news has come up — should it be included, or how should it be played on a local newspaper.com site. Here’s my most recent post to the thread:
The web isnâ€™t about getting people to your web site and keeping them there. Itâ€™s about providing the best user experience possible so they keep coming back. If youâ€™re including world/nation on your site under some false notion that youâ€™re providing a reason for people not to go elsewhere, youâ€™re doing it for the wrong reason.
You better have some unique user experience, or unique content if you want world/nation to contribute anything meaningful to your traffic stats. Even then, I think itâ€™s an open question as to weather a local newspaper.com can win against the likes of Yahoo News, Google News, CNN, NYT, WaPo or several other sites that have greater pull (and the new McClatchy/Yahoo! Deal even strengthens Yahoo!â€™s unique value proposition).
If youâ€™re including nation/world on your site out of some sense of journalistic obligation, youâ€™re also making a mistake. While a noble intention, your user doesnâ€™t care about your intentions. He or she wants out of your site what he or she came there for, which 98 percent of the time (for local users, which is all you should care about at a local newspaper.com) is local news and information. Including nation/world can be downright detrimental to that goal and to your brand as a local source of news and information. If youâ€™re going to include nation/world, be careful how you play it. Never lede with it, unless thereâ€™s another 9/11 or some such â€œeffects everyoneâ€™s livesâ€? story.
The average newspaper.com is reaching way too small of a local audience. Most local newspaper.com sites need to see their daily unique count increase four or five times over present reach. Nation/world isnâ€™t going to get you there and could in fact hurt. What is going to get you there is being a great local news and information site (along with a few other things).
Yes, if you totally drop nation/world, you will get a very few complaints (like five or six, all from older readers). Just tell them to go to CNN or Yahoo! You wonâ€™t lose them because they still need you for local, if youâ€™re doing local right. What you give up in a few page views (and most of those page views are of little or no economic value because theyâ€™re generated by out-of-market search engine results) will be made up for in local unique visitor growth.