We've had a busy week. We spent months preparing to trot out the latest version of mvtimes.com last Thursday. We expected glitches. We didn't count on late evening sabotage by a boot-up disk on an in-house server, but that's what happened. Incidentally, I've no idea what a boot-up disk on an in-house server is; it's just what someone told me.
Anyhow, it was a staggering calamity, and it had to be overcome, just had to, overnight, to get the new site up. The heroes of the all-nighter were Amy Williams, the online editor, Rick Mello, the web administrator, Tony Omer, the IT wiz, Barbara Ronchetti and Carrie Blair, ad sales representatives, and Tamar Russell and Tara Kenny, designers and graphic artists. And despite what they accomplished, and as even our most generous visitors have noted, there's still more to do.
But, despite the wreckage, which we're slowly clearing away, visitors to the new site mostly tell us they like it. Of course, they pointed out problems. Some of the links linked to nothing, they told us. They had trouble finding their favorite columns. They asked, why change the site that worked so well. Good question. Answer anon.
The reader forums proved one of the most appreciated features of the new site. As of yesterday morning, 35 registered posters had put up 63 comments, spread over several topics. We had seeded the site with a few topics. Posters came up with new ones and ignored some of ours. But that's what the forums are for, to spark online correspondence on subjects that interest visitors.
Thankfully, many of the posters complimented the new site. For instance, doug (Sounds suspicious, I know, but he's no relation, I swear.). doug wrote, "Congratulations to all the MV Times staff on a job well done with the new web page. I viewed it on a MacIntosh system 10 with a DSL connection and found it fast and flawless. I like the option of reading it as I always have with 'just the facts' or the equivalent of the 'paper' edition. The 'pop up' windows of the individual articles in the paper-equivalent mode, complete with photos, was a really slick touch. The only drawback I see is that I'm going to be spending WAY too much time online reading the MV Times." Don't hold back, I say.
And, I like that word "flawless." There's entirely too little flawlessness, I think.
A poster who calls himself kon wrote, "I have to second that: this is a fantastic site, much better than many international news sites. I check in every Thursday lunchtime from the UK. I am using a broadband connection and using both Windows and Linux to look at the site, works perfect in both. Excellent job, keep up the good work!"
Which reminds me of one problem with all this online stuff, including our web site, and that is that you have to keep up the work. I've often thought that the weekly community newspaper business is a rigid, relentless taskmaster. It's as if you're chopping off your life a week at a time, in other words, bigger chunks than the more popular and customary day at a time. Now, the web wants a blood meal, not just weekly, or even daily, but moment-ly. It's exhausting to contemplate.
So, why do it?
Well, at the heart of it, the goal is to maintain a regular, responsible, valuable, and (if all goes well) indispensable relationship with our reading and advertising customers. Increasingly, those customers turn to the web to get the information, news, and commercial messages they need to make their lives work. And, to have a little fun. If they want all that from us on paper, we'll do that. If they want it digitally, we'll do that too.
If you want to find out the movie times, look it up on page two of the Calendar section on paper. Or, no paper at hand, look it up with a click or two on your laptop at mvtimes.com. If you want to send a Letter to the Editor, mail or e-mail it to me. If the urge is too strong to wait for Thursday, post it on the reader forum. If Midnight Farm is having a sale that makes your heart go pitter-pat, click on the Midnight Farm ad in the digital edition of The Times on mvtimes.com and place your order instantly by e-mail. If that Swan 60 advertised in the Boats for Sale section of the classifieds is just the ticket, click the e-mail address in the ad and make the deal. If that $50 million North Shore property seems like the pied-a-terre you always wanted, click on the ad and make an offer. If that photo you noticed on Page One on the newsstand really hit home, go to mvtimes.com and download it to your desktop. If that news you saw in the print newspaper about the tax break offered by the Massachusetts legislature to all state taxpayers (yeah, right) seems made to order for you, go online to the story, click on it, and you'll see the Mass Department of Revenue link right there in the story. Click on that, and fill out the form to get that big money refund on its way home where it belongs.
More information, more news, more interactive features, advertising that connects you and the businesses that serve you: that's why.