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I’ll send you a link…

I’ll start off this post with a little background…

The Las Vegas Sun is in a unique situation, separate from most newspapers around the country. As I have mentioned before, the print version of the Sun comes as an insert inside the of the much-bigger Las Vegas Review-Journal. For this reason, many people naturally think of the Sun as the second newspaper in town.

That has nothing to do with the quality of the paper, but just the nature of how it’s delivered.

Also, until about a year ago, the website for the Sun was ancient. It basically only put up articles that had already run in the print edition. Rob, my boss, wrote in his blog about the old website for the Sun by saying, “Newspaper websites typically aren’t killer, and the Las Vegas Sun’s site was about 10 years behind the rest of the industry.”

The reason I bring all that up, is to explain what the Sun is up against in terms of attracting viewers to the website. For the past couple of years the people in Vegas who wanted to get news online didn’t really considered going to the Sun’s website. They developed a habit, and people are creatures of habit. We’re trying to change that.

How do you do that?

I can’t speak for what’s going on at the upper levels within Greenspun Media, but the obvious focus starts with providing content that is better than the competitor. It’s a simple idea: provide better stuff and more people will want to come to your site.

Within the last year and a half, the website operation at the Sun has changed tremendously…like in a reallly big way. Now the Sun has a ton of web-only content, and a lot of it is cool stuff that you could never get in a newspaper. Stuff like the history of Las Vegas, information about the water crisis and stories about construction workers who have died building all these billion dollar hotels.

All of this content comes in addition to the daily news operation, which includes breaking news stories, photo galleries, entertaining video, practical community guides, etc. It doesn’t take long to go on the Sun’s website and see that the content is top-notch, much better than many local newspapers around the country.

Now this brings me back to the original point… we’re attracting people to a website that is relatively “new.” The new site launched about a year ago, and since then the traffic numbers have gone way up. I have no idea of specific numbers, just that the audience to the site has grown significantly, and it’s still growing.

To keep that upward trend, we have to continue spreading the word about the site. This can be done in big and small ways. And as an intern, I think my efforts classify in the “small ways” category. This is something as simple as sending a source a link to a story I write about them.

I have been out on a couple of video shoots the past week and in both cases the people I talked with were super excited about being on camera and having a video on them. They wanted to see the video ASAP. So i give them a business card and then e-mail them the link when I post the story.

No, that’s not a revolutionary idea. But it’s simple. And smart.

That is a way to get people involved in the process. It gives people a means distribute the news that is important to them. One high school kid told me that he couldn’t wait for me to finish the video about his team so he could put it on his Myspace and Facebook page.

In most situations the best way for something like this to grow is by word of mouth, and the simple things like sending along the links to a story are an effective way to do that. As journalists we’re not really the people in the office out “selling”our product. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to get the word out about what we’re doing.

We want people to read and watch our stuff, and we should make it easy for them to do. But like I said before, all of this starts with putting out a good product, and if you don’t have quality content then nobody will read or watch your stuff no matter how many people you send links.

Category: Internship Thoughts, Uncategorized

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