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We still deliver, but in exciting new ways

April 02, 2011|Liz Thompson

I used to tell stories using a notebook, pen and computer.

Now, I find myself coordinating web-a-thons for our website and planning shows for cable television.

The newspaper as a product stopped being my focus a long time ago. Getting information to people is still a focus of what I do every day, but for me, the delivery methods have definitely changed.

Video, mobile and email are becoming big tools in the newspaper industry. These are platforms that let us send news and information to people we’ve never reached before. They also offer people who regularly rely on us for information multiple ways to access it.

So, we’re expanding what we’ve been doing with video and email. We also have some pretty interesting plans for mobile apps.

Here’s an example of projects floating around the digital department:
• We’re always looking for events and issues that lend themselves to live streaming coverage. We go to an event or invite people to our studio at The Herald-Mail and put live video coverage on our website.

Last week we produced a live web-a-thon, hoping to raise awareness of a $50,000 shortfall that could stop a 26-year tradition of celebrating Independence Day with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra at Antietam National Battlefield.

Appropriately enough, our first live video coverage was at the Salute to Independence at the battlefield last year. Videographer Dustin Lawyer spent that day at the battlefield on the hill next to the visitors center, filming the crowds, talking to people and filming the fireworks. It was all shown live on our website.

We’ve since covered the November elections with a live roundtable, streamed news live, and did live coverage of the All County Orchestra performance and the Washington County Spelling Bee.

So, a web-a-thon didn’t seem out of our reach. We packed up our equipment, hiked two blocks to the MSO offices and turned the cameras on at 10 am. Four hours and about $6,000 later, we turned the cameras off.

The MSO staff carried the ball on this one, lining up people who could tell great stories about their experiences at the Salute to Independence. A lot of people showed up, some with money, to help the cause.

We had 4,067 unique viewers and an average of about 67 viewers at any given time for that coverage.

That is one of my favorite things about digital platforms — you know exactly how they perform, which helps us decide what’s working, what needs tweaks and what we need to omit.

We’re partnering with our sister company — Antietam Cable — to bring more programming to WCL Cable Channel 30. We’ve had a film studio at The Herald-Mail for a couple of years and we’re expanding it.

You might notice some renovations in our front lobby if you visit the building. In a few months, you can stop on your way in and watch us film a show. We have a couple of interesting shows in our starting lineup and a waiting list of other ideas. You’ll find our shows on our website and on WCL Cable Channel 30.

• We’ve spent a lot of time developing our email platforms. We have a database of more than 22,000 emails and regularly reach out to that database with contests, deals, news and advertisements. If you haven’t signed up for our email newsletters and bulletins, please do. Go to herald-mail.com and click on “email alerts” in the sub-navigation bar under “Home.”

Monday, we’re launching Red Hot Deals on our website. The deals program offers people great savings on things they want — coupons for local restaurants, discounts for spas and hair salons, and even some spring-cleaning bargains.

We’ve been promoting Red Hot Deals for a couple of weeks and already about 6,000 people have signed up to receive an email every weekday with specific information about that day’s deal.

Check it out on Monday.

• We have a mobile website and an iPhone app, and now we’re considering expanding our mobile menu. If you’re a bargain hunter, we might have just the mobile app for which you’ve been looking. I can’t tell you a lot about it now, but it will be worth the wait.

The focus of our business has not changed. We’re in the business of delivering news and advertisements to our customers. We still do that every day and, because we use so many delivery methods, we’re reaching more people than ever before.

Liz Thompson is The Herald-Mail’s digital director. You can email her at lizt@herald-mail.com.

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