We live in a digital world. Everyone is constantly online. It may be via a computer or a mobile device, but people are always connected.
I don’t live around where I grew up anymore, but I still want to keep tabs on what’s going on because my family all still lives there. Sure, I could call my mom up and get the scoop from her, but if I’ve just got a few minutes to kill, I usually pop open my laptop and look at the local news websites.
Usually this isn’t a problem, but today I chose to look at The Hillsboro Free Press website.
I’m not from Hillsboro, Kan., but it is one of the two closest newspapers to the Canton, Kan., area, which is where I will always come home.
I went to the Free Press site and began looking around. Everything on the front page looked fine. There was nothing about Canton, but the timestamps on the articles were current.
Since I wanted to see if they had anything about Canton, though, I clicked on the “News” tab. The front page of this section was up-to-date as well. No mention of Canton, but no big deal.
I love the opinions and editorials in every newspaper, especially small-town, community orientated newspapers, so I clicked on the “Opinion” tab. My smile was quickly turned into a frown.
The most recent article was from Nov. 25, 2008.
That’s far too long. That is horrible for a newspaper, even a weekly publication like the Free Press.
Don’t get me wrong, every other section was up-to-date, but if this one section being horrendously outdated casts a bad light on the rest of the site.
If the opinions section isn’t something the Free Press is too concerned about, that’s fine, but then it shouldn’t be on the website. Remove it rather than letting it waste away and become abandoned, which is a black-eye for the site as a whole.
It’s like an old house that’s falling down, has grass three feet high and is the home of an unknown number of wild animals. It’s an eye sore for the community it’s in. A neglected section on a website is the same thing.
Like I said earlier, it’s a digital world, but for a small-town, local paper, the digital aspects of the business aren’t necessarily paying the bills.
I get that.
I know that’s why you have to focus on the print product, which means you may not have time to update all the sections of a website.
However, just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you should put the blinders on. Don’t ignore or underestimate the power of your website and the online world. There could easily be a time in the next few years where the print product as we know it is a relic of a not-so-distant past.
Keep looking ahead and working toward having a power-house website, especially in a small-town market. If you don’t own the web presence there, what’s to stop a competitor from coming in and cutting you out of the online game?
Nothing is going to be able to stop that except a proactive approach, and the proactive remedy is to have a killer website.
Content is king when fighting for Internet readers, so if one of your sections doesn’t have content, get rid of it.
You need to bolster what you have. Do what you do best. If that’s news and sports coverage, do it. Pay no attention to the opinions or whatever else the case might be.
Just make sure your goal is echoed in your site. If you goal is to only provide news and sports coverage, then only have those sections.
Don’t confuse the reader by having empty pages on your site. Doing so will be the quickest way in the world to lose a reader for good.