On Thursday, Sept. 8 we are “going live” with a new website, SWNews4U.com. The new site will be a collaboration of local news and local advertising from the nine weekly newspapers in our group of newspapers in southwestern Wisconsin. We are excited and apprehensive. Excited for having another avenue for providing news and advertising to the community. Apprehensive that this isn’t viewed as an alternative to reading the newspapers.
For several years we’ve had people ask how come we’re not on the web? Most of those inquiring were non-newspaper readers who wanted our information free on the web. I always told those people we work too hard to give our news away for free. We spend a great deal of time and effort and money gathering and writing local news as well as selling and designing local advertising. Take a look at our staff directory when you go to our new website. We have 15 writers/reporters/editors covering news from in communities from Darlington in the south all the way to Hillsboro to the north. We have many more employees who deal with customers, work in composition, design ads, compile and maintain subscription lists, handle billing, print our papers, then insert sections, label, bag and send our products to post offices for mailing each week. No other media rivals our staffing commitment to the local news in southwestern Wisconsin.
While Sept. 8, 2011, is an important date for us, so too are the following dates: 1843, 1862, 1872, 1885, 1889, 1894, 1899, 1905 and 1961. Those are when our weekly newspapers in our communities were founded.
Obviously as times changed so too have our newspapers. From production through delivery very little remains the same from those early days. Most changes were internal. This particular changing with the times is external. Technology has advanced so quickly with twitter and facebook exploding onto the scene in the last few years that we see a growing number of opportunities to provide our news in multiple ways. Many websites are now charging for content. Our website will initially be free, but if people view this website as an alternative to our newspapers, we won’t hesitate to change. We want this to be an enhancement for our readers and an opportunity for non-newspaper readers to see what they are missing by not being a subscriber. Since it is a collaboration of our nine newspapers, the website will provide a bit of what’s in each weekly issue and then a lot of what isn’t in the newspaper from video footage to community-submitted photos and comments to additional photos.
We’ve been working on the site for a couple of months to get the bugs out and during that time have had our editorial, advertising, and production staffs uploading information to the site. There will continue to be kinks to work out so enjoy the site and realize it remains a work in progress.