Letting loose on the World Wide Web

It seems like only yesterday that former Evening Sun reporter Dave Warren convinced me to lay down $19.95 to set up an America Online account so we could check out this thing called the “Internet.”

But it wasn’t yesterday – it was about a dozen years ago now. That’s how fast things have moved since the dawn of the Information Age. I’m proud to say that largely because of Mr. Warren, The Evening Sun was at the forefront of that emerging technology. We were among the very first newspapers in the state to have a website – first as a single “Homepage” on the now-defunct Norwich.net, then later under our very own domain name, www.evesun.com.

Our newspaper’s website has undergone countless facelifts and complete redesigns over the years, all while remaining the most highly-accessed website in Chenango County. It’s been a great supplement to the print edition of the paper, and the perfect way for those who’ve moved away to keep tabs on their hometown.

Truthfully, though, in the hustle and bustle of putting out our primary product, the print edition, our website became somewhat of an afterthought for many years. Updated faithfully, it didn’t see a change in design or functionality for about five years – an eternity in Internet time.

All that changed earlier this year, when our parent company hired web designer Craig Ballinger. Along with myself, Rick Brightman, Dick Snyder and our editorial, sales and circulation staffs, we came up with a plan to revitalize evesun.com and put more emphasis on being an information service provider rather than simply a print operation.

That effort resulted in the June 1 launch of the newly-redesigned website, which has garnered nothing but positive feedback and generated nearly twice the traffic that the older site did. We kept that basic features of the old site – abbreviated news stories, links to past obituaries and ‘30 Seconds’ columns – and added a host of new features – a community forum where readers can post their viewpoints (and boy, do they!) on a variety of topics, more stories and photos than ever before, online classifieds and events, and a bunch of other cool stuff you couldn’t get before.

And as always, that site and its content are free to the entire known universe – and it always will be.

Beginning with today’s edition, we’re adding a veritable mountain of even more new features to the site – features that will, in August, become part of the “ES Extra” online experience. We’re giving everyone a free preview of all that we’ll offer for one month, then in August the “ES Extra” content will be available to subscribers only. Subscribers to the print edition of The Evening Sun will be given free access as a benefit of being a good customer. Those who don’t get the print edition can sign up to receive all that content for an introductory price of $9.99 a month or $79 a year.

What? You’re making us pay for news online when most every other paper does it for free? Well, if all the other newspapers jumped off a bridge ... Seriously folks, we’re in the business to make money here, and I make no apologies for that. We’re a small, independently-owned newspaper in a small market, and we can’t afford to give away the whole store for free online. We put time and money into producing a printed product that we hope people will pay for, and we think that should be no different on the Internet. Like I said before, the basic Evening Sun website that you’ve been seeing for the last month will always remain free – but to get the “ES Extra” content in August, you’ll have to subscribe – either in print or online.

For the next month though, check out evesun.com and all the new stuff for free. I think you’ll find it’s pretty cool. You can explore it all online starting today, but here’s a quick rundown of what we’re adding under “ES Extra:”

• Complete text of every single news, sports, feature and entertainment story that appears in that day’s Evening Sun.

• High-resolution, downloadable photos from that day’s paper, plus galleries of photos that didn’t appear in print. (Right now, we’ve got a great gallery of user-submitted flood photos – check ‘em out).

• Current day and archived copies of three of our most popular features – obituaries, police blotter and ‘30 Seconds.’

• “Blogs” by myself and the editorial crew.

• A viewable PDF version of that day’s paper that will let you see every page exactly how it appeared in print.

• A ton of extra content never before available online – wedding and engagement announcements, movie reviews, letters to the editor, community news briefs and more.

• A searchable archive of Evening Sun news stories beginning from June, and eventually going back even further.

I’m pretty excited that we’re moving ahead with putting more emphasis on our Internet presence, and I look forward to seeing that pay off in terms of readership and community interaction. I’m not sure the website will ever replace the printed edition (although I may eat those words before I retire), but it’s now an integral component of the entire Evening Sun “experience” if you will. Check it out and let me know what you think – jeff@evesun.com, or leave a message on the ES Forum.

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