New Gazette website is next step in local franchise

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Scott Angus
Sunday, July 21, 2013

JANESVILLE—Nearly six years ago, we reorganized The Gazette to better emphasize local news on the front page and in the front section, and we moved most national and world news into the second section.

Some people still wonder about and question that decision. Just last week, we published a letter from a man who partly blamed us and our news placement for “a dumbed-down society of low-information voters.”

As I've explained to dozens of readers over the years, we believe in focusing on what we do best, and that's local news. We believe our future depends on how thoroughly we cover that news and how well we present it to our customers.

We're now extending that philosophy to our website, gazettextra.com, like never before. When we begin offering “all-access” subscriptions July 30, only paying customers will be able to read our best local content online.

In general, that content consists of stories written by Gazette reporters who cover news and information not available from other sources, at least in ways that we provide them. By a wide margin, we have the most resources to gather news in Rock and Walworth counties, and we believe those local stories have great value to our readers.

That doesn't mean everything on our website will be available only to those who pay. Visitors who aren't subscribers will be able to see headlines on all of our local stories, and they will be able to read articles about breaking news that's not exclusive to The Gazette and gazettextra.com.

For example, we would let everyone read about an accident that closes two lanes of Interstate 39/90 and spills a noxious chemical. That would be important public safety information, and other media, including area radio and TV stations, would likely have it, as well.

Other free local content will include our staff and community blogs and many of the photos and videos taken by our journalists and submitted by the public.

All visitors also will have access to state, national and world news from The Associated Press, along with photos and videos from the wire service. Other media have that news, so we see no reason to limit its availability on our site.

Among the new free content at gazettextra.com will be an interactive comics and games package that we believe will attract people and keep them on the site. The comics go back 30 days, so fans can catch up on any they've missed. And the many Sudoku, crossword and other games could keep players busy for hours.

So, yes, we want everyone—even those who don't pay—to visit our site frequently and find value. That's good for us and our advertisers, and it could be even better for us if nonsubscribers are intrigued by the glimpses of paid content that we offer and decide to become paying customers.

As with our print paper, though, the foundation of our new site will be the exclusive local content that distinguishes us from other media and makes us indispensable for people who want to know what's happening in their communities. Those stories and elements will be easy to spot because of the stylized “G” alongside their headlines.

These important changes to our website follow through on our decision six years ago in print to stake our future on what sets us apart. We were confident that it was the right move then, and we're equally confident that this next step on the web gives us the best chance for success.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. Follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.

Last updated: 8:24 am Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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