Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Radio Nowhere" and the Orange Review

John Amos, a local writer here in Orange, Virginia, writes an excellent column "Every Now and Then" that's published in the Orange Review and the Fredricksburg Free-Lance Star.

His article that ran in last week's edition of the Orange Review, "Radio Nowhere," articulated the ennui of broadcast radio's diminishing audience from a listener's point of view. I really like the piece, and I should have been able to call attention to Amos' essay simply by linking to it.

But I couldn't.

The Orange Review didn't put it online. Only a portion of the articles published in the weekly paper makes it to their website, and they have no online archive. New week, a new batch of articles and the old simply disappear from cyberspace.

Now I know I've talked about local media a lot recently, but it's for a purpose. Most of "CE Conversations" readership don't live in Orange, Virginia, and commentary only about WJMA or the Orange Review would be irrelevant for them.

But these critiques are using specific examples that are relevant elsewhere. While it's unlikely the site in question will do anything, hopefully, it will stimulate thought among the readership for other sites they're involved with; be it work, recreation, or volunteer organization.

So what's wrong with the Orange Review site that might be of help to similar sites? The Review doesn't understand that content is king.

The Review is the best source of news and information about what's happening in Orange and has been continually published since at least 1887. Granted, it would take a long time to digitize all those back issues, but what a resource for historians and genealogists.

But the paper doesn't even archive what it currently prints! At the very least, there should be two or three years' worth of content available (I'm guessing that's about the time everything went digital in the press room). Where do these digitized stories go after publication, anyway? Just add a search box (also missing) and make this content available, already.

Why should they? Because unique content drives traffic to the site, which boosts ad revenue. Which is the other problem with the Orange Review site. There's just one ad box. Ad clutter is bad, but these guys just aren't trying. A few spaces for contextual advertising would not be too obtrusive, and would help expand the revenue base outside of the Orange County limits.

And before you respond that this is just a little paper in a little one-horse town and they don't have the staff or the time to do all that interwebtube stuff, know this: the Orange Review and the papers for the four surrounding counties are owned by Media General, a fairly large media company. Their sister publication, Charlottesville's Daily Progress does a slightly better job -- at least, you can search their archives and their ad placement makes a little more sense.

I think it's simply a lack of vision. Whether it's at the corporate level, the regional level or perhaps even the local level, somewhere decision makers are not understanding the web.

If I had my way, everyone whose decisions involve even marginally the Internet would watch the following video. Mike Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State put together what I consider the best explanation of how information on the Internet works, and how its different than printed media.

So the story ends with me contacting John Amos and getting permission from him to post the column in its entirety on "CE Communications" (he owns the copyright to the material). I'll post it tomorrow.

If this article generates the amount of discussion I think it should, traffic for this site will increase significantly. And that's a shame -- because each additional click represents another missed opportunity for the Orange Review.

- Ralph

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