We’ve launched several new initiatives in the past 12 months to try to provide our readers with a more complete news report, and our advertisers with ways to reach new customers that might not have been available to them through traditional means.
We’ve removed the firewall from norwalkreflector.com, allowing readers to access a good bit of our content at no charge; we’ve added a feature to allow readers to comment on news stories; and most recently we launched ReflectorCam 2.0, where we can post the hundreds of photos we shoot that don’t make it into print and where you the readers can also post to share with friends and family members.
While we feel good about all these, I’d be lying if I told you they were not fraught with perils and that I never woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat over the investment we were making and whether it was worth it.
Taking down the firewall was huge. For years, you had to pay to get most of the content at norwalkreflector.com. You had to subscribe to the print edition or the Web and enter a username and password to access most content. Suddenly all you had to do was put in the URL and there was the bulk of the content that appeared on our front page each day.
We anticipated that we would lose paid Web subscribers via this move and we did. We figured it would be a trade-off, that traffic would grow so much we could entice more advertising to the site, more than offsetting the loss of subscription revenue. That has finally happened, but it was slow coming. For months after we took down the firewall, people were still unaware that they could get some content for free.
In conjunction with opening up our site, we added an e-edition of the paper (Click on “Today’s Reflector” on our Web site for access), to give our wonderful paying Web subscribers more bang for their buck. The e-edition is an exact digital replica of our daily newspaper with 100 percent of the content available. It has taken awhile, too, for the e-edition to catch on. We found people didn’t know it was available, which doesn’t speak highly for our internal promotion efforts.
By far the most sleepless nights have been caused by opening up our stories to reader comments. While those comments have vastly improved the reader experience on our Web site, I lived in dread of what somebody might post. We initially did not require registration to post and people could and often did, post things that were unacceptable. About two months ago, we began requiring registration, and while the number of comments has fallen off dramatically, those that remain are more thoughtful and more along the lines of what we had envisioned when we launched the feature. I predict it will continue to improve.
ReflectorCam 2.0 has been, by far, our most successful new venture. People took to it almost immediately and began posting their own photos as well as spending time looking at our photos. For example, as of yesterday morning, one of the galleries posted from the United Way Tool Time event Saturday had already garnered more than 2,000 page views.
Which brings us now to video. We’ve been fooling around with video on norwalkreflector.com for nearly a year now. Some of it has been good, some not so good. The process has been kind of haphazard and it’s difficult to search for a video you want to see. It’s basically been all over the place.
We have launched a new video player that will improve video viewing tremendously. What’s more, videos will all be available in one place so they will be easily searched. And, like ReflectorCam 2.0, the new video platform will allow our audience to easily post their own videos to share.
Our vision for www.norwalkreflector.com is for it to be a companion to the print edition of the Norwalk Reflector. We do not want to simply rehash the same content, but to bring it to life with more photos, video, reader interaction and breaking updates. It’s taking some time, but we are getting to that goal and we appreciate your patience and continued input.