New and improved Web site

Published 11:09 am Sunday, September 14, 2008

Soon we will launch a redesigned and expanded version of our newspaper’s Web site,

If the future of the printed newspaper is bleak, as some industry observers suggest, the soaring popularity of newspaper Web sites proves that the public’s appetite for news is as strong as ever. That’s good news for this columnist, who has staked his livelihood on community news.

As a publisher, I’ve chosen to embrace our franchise — local news — and to let the marketplace determine how we deliver it. For many readers, the traditional printed newspaper will remain the preferred medium for several more decades to come. Others, especially younger readers, already are demanding electronic delivery of their news.

That demand led to the launch of in 2007 and a companion social-networking site,, earlier this year. Traffic on our Web sites has tripled since January, even as readership of our print edition remains stable.

Eventually, electronic delivery of our newspaper will take several forms. The Internet, accessed by desktop and laptop computers, will remain the primary vehicle, but other customers will choose to receive The Tidewater News through their cell phones, their iPods and their televisions. The possibilities are endless.

For now, our energies remain focused on our print edition and our existing Web sites.

The current version of has served us well during our Web infancy, but it became clear a few months ago that we needed more horsepower if we were to give readers what they were demanding.

So we purchased a license for a new platform and set out to create a site that will carry us into the next generation of Web publishing.

Some immediate improvements you’ll notice when the new site goes live:

n Additional content, including the popular It’s Happening Here and Faith and Worship calendars, which currently appear only in our print edition. Public records — such as arrests, land transfers and court dispositions — also will be available online.

n More photographs. Our current site can handle only one photograph per story. The new site will accommodate galleries of photos, including many that don’t appear in our print edition.

n More video. Currently, we rely on Google Video to host our multimedia content. The new site will allow us to host our own.

n Blogs. For the uninitiated, that’s short for Web log, which is an online journal, usually on a specific topic and written by someone with expertise or passion about that topic. We’ll have a staff blog or two, but we’re looking for some volunteer bloggers in the community. Possible blog topics include local politics; education; hunting and fishing; participatory sports, such as golf and tennis; high school sports; food; gardening; technology; travel; and real estate. If you’re interested, shoot me an e-mail.

Most important, the new site will offer us much more flexibility in responding to what readers want.

The current site is built on a rigid template with little accommodation of design and content changes. From day one, the new site will be a work in progress, constantly evolving to meet the news preferences of people in Franklin, Southampton and Isle of Wight. Stay tuned for its debut, and let me know what you think.