Chris Houchens, online director for the Bowling Green Daily News, says his newspaper tries “to offer a unique online product that uses the power of technology to enhance the experience for our readers.”
The Kentucky Press Association thinks the paper is succeeding with flying colors, and recently honored the Daily News by naming it the Best Newspaper Web site in its class for 2007.
This is the first time the Daily News has won the Web site award.
The Daily News has been a TownNews.com client for several years, and early in 2007 underwent an extensive site redesign. Houchens credits the redesign with going a long way toward helping the paper earn the Web site award.
"The big thing we did with the redesign was eliminate clutter and re-did the nav a little bit,” said Houchens. “It cleaned it up a lot. The content’s not changed … we’re still posting same news and same stuff we had before. I think the redesign really did help."
The Daily News in an afternoon paper with a daily circulation of 21,000 and a Sunday circulation of 25,000.
One thing Houchens and the Daily News have done on their Web site is embrace the use of multimedia.
The paper uses the Web’s multimedia capability to tie its online and print products together. A daily Webcast, refreshed each morning with new content, tells readers what headlines they can expect to see in that afternoon’s newspaper.
"We made multimedia a focus," said Houchens. "We broke that out into its own section."
"We’re continuing to do more of that."
The Daily News also utilizes AP video and headlines to bring news to its online readers.
“We have always tried to focus on having a quality Web site. It’s what I spend all day thinking about and working on,” said Houchens. “Any newspaper that is not currently online has already missed the boat.”
In addition to news and multimedia, the Daily News Web site, which averages about 11,000 unique visitors each day, offers its readers a wide variety of products and features.
Among these features are the TownNews.com YPEngine, which Bowling Green has named “soky411.biz,” calendar, photo gallery and newsroom blogs.
"We’re really trying to focus on some user content, too," said Houchens.
According to Houchens, the paper believes in a sort of trial and error online philosophy and is unafraid to try new ideas in an effort to see what its readers will enjoy.
"The flexibility of the Web enables us to have a “ready-shoot-aim” philosophy. We attempt new things all the time online. Sometimes they hit and sometimes we need to step back and retool,” said Houchens. “It’s this type of thinking that’s allowed us not just to win the state newspaper Web award, but to be the dominate source of online news in our market. We try to offer the best possible online experience for our readers and advertisers.”
Bowling Green, obviously, is hitting with their ideas much more often than they are missing. The Daily News is a great example of a small to mid-size newspaper taking full advantage of the flexibility the Web has to offer.