Advocate-Messenger online site gets update

January 04, 2004|GARY MOYERS

Regular visitors to The Advocate-Messenger's online site may have noticed some changes over the past few months.

Online Editor Kent Brown said many of the changes were initiated in an effort to make navigation and accessibility easier for readers.

"It's more like an issue of the printed newspaper," said Brown. "Before, the main page would lead readers to other sections, and there would be a week's worth of stories stored there on one page. Now, we have a single issue displayed on the home page, and all the sections of the paper are directly accessible from that home page. Each issue contains that day's pages, making searches for specific stories much easier."

Brown said the site's redesign was prompted by a changeover to a different system provider.

"We made the change to a different system, and during the changeover we brainstormed some ideas on how to make our site better serve readers. One main function we came up with is a need for the Web site to serve as an archival database," he said. "Visitors can access a week's worth of past editions of online issues, and we now offer a subscription system for people who need to search farther back."


Archived items, which are items more than one week old, can be purchased online either by a per-view basis or by an annual subscription fee.

Brown said the key for Web site visitors is to come back on a regular basis.

"Because the home page only links to a week's worth of back issues, readers should visit often to keep up," he said. "Issues older than the ones that appear on the home page are still available for search, but we now charge a fee to access them online."

One new section drawing a number of users is the online photograph database. Persons wishing to purchase pictures that appear in The Advocate-Messenger may now view thumbnails of available photos, and purchase them online for less than the cost charged in person at the newspaper offices on South Fourth Street.

"We've tried to make it as simple as possible," said Brown. "People who want to buy photos may simply go to our site, navigate to the picture search, and find what they're looking for by using a search engine. Pictures that are available are displayed through the use of thumbnails, and when you find what you want to buy, you can pay with either your credit or debit card."

Once the pictures are downloaded, purchasers simply print them out on their own printer.

"We view this as an added service for our readers," said Brown. "They can find their pictures, and even some that didn't appear in the paper, for less than what they pay when they make a trip to the office."

Brown said people may subscribe to The Advocate-Messenger online as well, and purchase the Boyle County history book, for which material is now being gathered.

"It's a secure site," he said. "Personal information submitted is not available to anyone else."

New additions that are drawing a lot of attention, Brown said, include weblogs by reporters and photographers.

"Weblogs, or blogs, are really online journals," he said. "They give the author's insight on a wide variety of topics, including personal observations. The photography weblogs give us a gallery to showcase our photos, and they're drawing a lot of favorable comments."

Brown said currently three weblogs are offered with plans to add at least two more in the next few weeks. At least one of the new ones will be from the editorial section of the paper, while Brown said the other will be a photography blog.

The opinion section of the newspaper is generating more attention, Brown said, thanks to its online counterpart.

"We're getting a lot of hits on our letters and commentary sections, and those readers are submitting their comments online about issues that appear in the paper," he said. "That's been a real bonus for us."

Purchasers of classified ads can now placing their ads online as well, Brown said.

"We're also running full newspaper ads in the online edition," he said.

The online edition of The Advocate-Messenger draws visitors from around the world, Brown said.

"So far, the three most popular areas of our paper have been the obituaries, local news and anything to do with University of Kentucky sports," he said.

The redesign is not complete, Brown said.

"Our goal is to offer more content on the Web site," he said. "The reader will find things available on the Web site that we may not have space for in the printed edition. It's another way to keep the reader current."

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