Walter Pierce

RE: Brave New URL

by Walter Pierce

The is new and, we believe, improved

I've learned two things over the last few months about launching a new Web site: Don't do it unless you're committed. The process promotes gray hair.

Last year, probably during the summer - it's a blur now - a few of us at the paper got to thinking. That's generally a dangerous undertaking, more so when the topic is technology, which we in the print medium have embraced like children embrace vaccinations - we're told it's good for us, it probably is, maybe, but damn.

The decision to give an overhaul - I would have said face lift, but that's far too light a word; this is more akin to a lobotomy - grew from a mishmash of concerns: The Web site can and should be more user-friendly; it should encourage the user to explore and be engaged without getting lost; too little content is displayed on the home page; those drop down menus are infuriating; the staff isn't sufficiently stressed out. And certainly not least of all is the realization that, our 20th century sentiments notwithstanding, some day in the not too distant future most print media will be mostly digital, and if we don't begin moving in that direction, we're screwed.

The caveat dangling like a modifier over this paradigm shift is that few newspapers have figured out how to make their digital component profitable. But figure it out we must. The Pandora's Box - free content - was thrown open long ago, and I doubt even the mighty New York Times, which plans to begin charging for content soon, can close it.

At the new you'll still see the print edition's content on the home page: the cover story, lead news and Pooyie! in rotation at the top; the rest of the content is on the left rail under the header "Also This Week." Below the cover story is the new and improved blogs section. Each header - INDreporter (politics and news), Acadiana Business, A&E, EATS (cooking, dining, drinking and restaurant news), INDextra (sports and anything else that needs a home) and What's INDStore (yes, even our ad reps are now blogging) - links to zones on the site devoted exclusively to that specific type of content. The most recent blogs in those zones are displayed on the home page as well. Soon we'll be bringing on more bloggers to add to and diversify our content, especially in EATS, which we all know is a central aspect of life in Lafayette.

Thanks go out to Chad Theriot and especially Blake Judice, our point men at CBM Technology, who led us through the process with patience, or who only cursed our technological ignorance when we weren't in earshot. We didn't know what a widget was and they didn't know what a byline was, but somehow we bridged the communication gulf and arrived at a site we think is better.

It is a given, however, that no small number of you will not like it and will be happy to register your displeasure (and already have - the site went live last Thursday night). It is a significant change. One of the joys of my job is that I get notifications in my in-box every time someone posts a comment on our Web site - all the bile and bane. I'm sure by the time you're reading this in print, I will have been adequately napalmed by the nabobs.

But we're confident that most Ind readers will enjoy their experience. We won't float ads across the screen or use pop-ups (not for now, anyway), or require a log-in for access to content. But we do want you to wander around, to explore and, especially, to join in the running dialogue about our community.