An addendum to my earlier list of new year’s resolutions:

11. MARKET YOUR WEB SITE: That goes beyond placing points in the paper saying “see our Web site.” After all, you if you haven’t realized it yet, your brand is going only so far with readers nowadays. I recently saw a television ad for a northern Indiana newspaper that gives a scant recognition to the Web site. (On the other side of the spectrum, the Chicago NBC station has a TV ad that, while rather ambiguous, gives the impression that its Web site does more than just replay the 10 p.m. news). Your Web site may not be paying the full ticket yet, but don’t expect it to pay more unless you start to aggressively pursue potential readers.

Just because you’ve built it, they won’t necessarily come. Show them why they should.

Here are a few ideas to get your site in focus with readers:

1. One of my favorite ideas is to take a newspaper box and turn it into a “web box.” Secure a monitor into the window where the print product was displayed and make sure it’s running your home page. Or attach a monitor to a news rack and run your home page while copies of the print product are available for purchase. A nice way to meld old and new media, and with the number of potential purchase points running wifi, it should be easier to get this into the market than before. Have your circulation people involved in marketing your Web site as well as the paper, adn this could be a good start.

2. Look at places that offer wifi, like coffee houses, bookstores, casual restaurants. Are they willing to promote your site? Maybe as part of an ad deal? If it’s a mom-and-pop operation, are they willing to make it the default page for folks who connect to the web at their business? Look at ways your Web site could benefit their business, and work to achieve a consensus. Both can prosper.

3.Check to see if your local library has a home page. If so, would they be willing to display a prominent link to your site? If not, would they be willing to use yours as a home page?

4. Viral marketing. How many employees do you have left? Each of them is a potential marketing tool. Give them handouts promoting the Web site (or special Web-only features) and have them get the word out in their communities. Give them talking points that they can use in casual conversation as they get out into the school organizations, church gatherings, social settings and barber shops. Every one of your employees should have a stake in the success of your operation, and this is one way to get them to help.

5. Speaking of viral, does your paper/website have a presence on social networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter? If so, are you actively using it to promote features, breaking news, invitations for story tips and/or reader-interactive projects? Are you promoting feedback on your posts?

6. Look within. When a customer comes into your reception area, is there anything there to tell them about your Web site? If you have niche Web sites, would a customer know that by walking into your building? Is there a monitor set up near the reception desk that displays your home page? Better yet, do you have a dedicated computer or two in your waiting area, so customers can look around on your site while they’re waiting for their appointment?

One last thing…is your newsroom monitoring your competition’s web sites the same way they monitor TV and radio? If not, your news gatherers are too busy staring at the paddock while the race is running behind them. Get dedicated Web monitors in your newsroom now, and make sure people are monitoring them!


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