www.bakercityherald.com readership increases tenfold in five years
By MARK FURMAN
Editor, Baker City Herald
My grandmother lost her sight before the World Wide Web became a part of daily life in this country.
"Imagine you could control your TV," I told her, "with your typewriter."
Most of us couldn't.
But seeing is believing.
The Baker City Herald launched www.bakercityherald.com five years ago.
Five years earlier, I had watched former college classmates strike off for Seattle to become virtual millionaires.
Five years before that, I'd never heard of "the Internet" or "e-mail," even though my family had moved to Oregon in part due to elements of what is the modern World Wide Web.
Today, it's not unheard of for teens to have their own Web sites, either as stand-alone sites, "blogs" or on MySpace.com and similar sites.
Flip open a laptop with a wireless card in downtown Baker City and you can get on the Internet, courtesy of Historic Baker City's "hot spot."
You might even be able to surf the Web on your cell phone.
It has to be an alienating experience for anyone who had to have their kids or grandkids program their VCR (another casualty of the last decade).
For the country, and the world, as a whole, however, it has changed the way we gather and spread information.
Back in January 2001, www.bakercityherald.com had just recorded 2,000 "unique visitors" different computers, differentiated by their unique addresses for December 2000.
In December of 2005, the site recorded over 20,000 unique visitors during that month alone.
By comparison, our most recent audited daily circulation for the Baker City Herald was 3,189 paid copies Monday through Thursday, and 3,396 paid copies on Fridays.
Not exactly apples to apples, but you've got to admit: that's a lot of fruit.
Needless to say, a tenfold increase in readership has caught our attention. We are looking at ways the Web site can complement the print edition by doing things the print edition cannot do.
There are already features of the Web site that make it a useful companion, not a substitute, to the Baker City Herald print edition.
Consider: if you go to bakercityherald.com and click on the site takes you directly to current conditions and, more importantly this time of year, to the ODOT Web cams at Weatherby, Ladd Canyon and Deadman's Pass. If you are heading out of town on Interstate 84, this should be your first stop before you go.
And instead of printing long Web addresses in the newspaper, a story published on the Web can link a reader to a related Web site via a link embedded in a word. Click on in a story about this weekend's event in , and your browser will take you to the event's for more information.
You can also submit , , , , briefs and other press releases to the Baker City Herald via links on www.bakercityherald.com. In this regard, the site shifts roles from spreading news to gathering news.
And rather than just upload a selection of each day's print edition, we've started uploading visitor information, events and other items of interest about Baker County to the Web.
And we're just beginning to scratch the surface.
On deck: a searchable archive for past stories and obituaries, and a community calendar that would make it possible to search community news items by the day events are scheduled.
I'd like to have a section where visitors can download and watch digital video of a bull rider, someone running the rapids in Hells Canyon, or a slow 360 degree video panorama from the top of Eagle Cap Mountain.
The possibilities are energizing, not just here but industry-wide.
When I entered this business a decade ago, the joke was that journalism was about selling newsprint for more than you paid for it.
Today more than ever, however, the World Wide Web and reader-oriented print editions are showing journalism for what it can be: a means of gathering and distributing information to people who are interested in that information.
We're excited to be part of that revolution.
What do you think?
Do you have ideas about what you'd like to see on www.bakercityherald.com?