Old Media – Nashua Telegraph

We are lucky here in Nashua that we still have a traditional daily newspaper, the Nashua Telegraph. The paper (rather like Nashua itself) is stuck between two bigger rivals, the Manchester Union Leader to the North and the Boston Globe to the South.

I must confess that until yesterday, I’d not picked up the paper version of the Telegraph for as long as I can remember, but I do follow their updates on Twitter and sometimes the RSS feed. We have however, had some dealings with the Nashua Telegraph of late because of the PR we do with Winco Identification. In particular some people in the company have recently been interviewed and today we had one of the Telegraph photographers on-site for a few pictures. You can see the Winco ID story here.

I’ve found this process rather interesting and it made me wonder what the paper is doing to cope with the digital news age that we find ourselves in.

The first thing I must say is that the Telegraph is at least trying. They have all the ingredients:

Website? Check!

Blogs? Check!

Forums? Check!

Twitter? Check!

Facebook? Hmm, I couldn’t find anything but I wouldn’t give a confident no. Might be something I misssed.

So let’s check out how this old media operation is doing with all the new media tools.

Website.

If you use Firefox along with Adblock Plus, this isn’t too bad. However, I felt I had to do some raw research so I went off to NashuaTelegraph.com using Chrome as my browser. Wow this is nasty, the ugliest collection of crappy banner ads I’ve seen for ages. This is worse than an early 90’s GeoCities page. Now, I fully appreciate that old media companies are having difficulty shifting their revenue model to include more on-line, but this is not the way to do it.

The retro look/feel to the site is continued in the page design as well. I ran the site through Website Grader and found the following:

Page Title is too long
The maximum recommended length for page titles is 70 characters, your current page title is 82 characters.

Meta Description is too long
Your meta description should be no more than 150 characters, your current meta description is 334 characters.

High Number Of Meta Keywords
The web page has 41 keywords in its metadata.We believe that though the search engines don’t weigh keywords as heavily as they used to, they’re still important to get right. By using a high number of keywords, it is possible that you are diluting the effect of your most important keywords. We would suggest keeping the keywords to 10 or less. Currently, this page has 41 keywords in its metadata.

Again, just like in the early 90’s when we used to think that putting tons of metadata in our headers would make search engines (such as Yahoo and AltaVista back then) find our sites. Interestingly, the site has a very high overall grade from Website Grader, this will be mainly due to a lot of incoming links (as people link to stories that interest them), a large number of indexed pages and frequently updated content.

Another plus is the the Telegraph allows comments on the news stories. They are using Disqus for this (as I do)  for comments which is a great way to manage them. Having the comments feature turns the site into a blog which is good too.

Blogs.

I clicked on the link labeled “blogs” and came to a page with some interesting little stories. As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of blogs and blogging – especially because the concept allows writers to try different things and show their real personalities. The Telegraph “blogs” really are not any different to the rest of the site – I think there is a great opportunity to develop this and make blogs by the Telegraph peopel become a really good local resource.

Forums.

A couple of years ago I was a fan of forums and I’d set up several of my own. I’m not sure why, but this media format doesn’t seem to work for me as much as it use to – maybe because of the rise of Twitter. In anycase, I used to check out the telegraph forums from time to time and found them to be usually occupied by the dsame few nuts each time.

It doesn’t help that the moderators have no persona of their own. Who wants to communicate with someone called “Telegraph Staff” or “Lifestyles Editor”? Not me.

Twitter and Social Media.

For me, Twitter is a great way to keep up with the news – I discovered that Michael Jackson was no longer with us on Twitter about 40 minutes before the main news outlets reported it – and the Telegraph does have a presence there. As it happens I follow @NashuaTelegraph on Twitter because they automatically Tweet when a new story is posted.

The problem is that I don’t see the Telegraph doing much else. There is a great opportunity here for Telegraph writers to be active in social media and engage their readers in great discussions. I’d really like to see them do much more than just post the news stories.

David’s Conclusion

Well, the Telegraph is trying. I think that with some planning on how they can get into the digital news age, they could do pretty well. They just have to get out of the retro website thing and start to make their social media activities much more social – let’s have some people ‘s names rather than company names please.

I’m inclined to believe that the future of news organizations is in being dynamically local and really building a social community.

I hope these guys can do it.

How is your local newspaper coping with the changes in the industry? Do they have any great ideas that could help the Nashua Telegraph?

Comments

  1. dkiesow says

    David -

    Interesting analysis. I wish we could do more and we continue to improve our efforts in these areas.

    But, probably missing a few important points:

    1) There are a TON of ads on the Telegraph pages, yes. That is because at this point in this market that is what generates revenue. We would all like to reduce the number and/or implement other revenue streams but that is something likely to bubble down from larger metro papers rather than the other way around. For the time being that mass of advertising is a sign of the health of the site.

    2) The Forums are really owned by readers not the Telegraph. For better or worse we moderate very lightly and get involved rarely. When I do participate I do use my real name, The 'moderator' users you see are simply the names of the accounts that created specific forums. Our involvement in daily discussion is really just a factor of our staff size.

    3) We have been using Disqus for (I think) two years. We have a fairly liberal approach and moderate only unregistered commenters. Anyone using a verified email goes live immediately. As a result there is some fairly good discussion on the site.

    4) We have been on Twitter for 2+ years and consider this to be our most successful 'social media' effort to date. In fact we dumped our SMS alerts vendor a year back and rely on Twitter almost exclusively for news alerts. We do participate on Twitter as a conversation and not just as a RSS feed. Several other staffers do the same at accounts such as @NHcom, @TelegraphEncore etc.

    5) Blogs. As we know blogs are only as good as the time and effort you can put into them. At a small paper it is tough to make that time. David Brooks has it nailed at http://granitegeek.org and Michelle Collins has it going as well at http://blogs.nashuatelegraph.com/livefreeordine Several others are doing well but overall we do need to reevaluate our approach. Our next step is likely to reach out to community members who would like to partner with us to host (and sell ads) into their blogs. But, overall I don't consider blogs a 'thing' to be treated differently then any of our other features. Everything we do should be engaging, interactive, relevant, timely, extensible etc.

    6) Metadata – not sure what the question there is? We don't consider that content to be a major SEO factor, except for SERP. But – a lot of it is from a redesign 3 – 4 years ago. We are relaunching ALL of our sites on a new CMS this Fall and we will be optimizing metadata, html etc as we go.

    So – other things: We use coveritlive.com to have weekly chats with editors and staff; we have been hosting weekly webinars focused on economic issues; we provided live streaming video of editorial boards with political candidates last year and took reader questions; we have been experimenting with platforms such as http://parentingnh.ning.com/ and http://livestream.com/nashuatelegraph and http://qik.com/nashuatelegraph

    I think we have a pretty good track record for innovation but there is always more to do. I would be interested to hear what specifically you would like to see the paper doing more of. We are redesigning now so no time like the present to hear some new good ideas.

    Thanks

    Damon Kiesow
    ME / Online
    nashuatelegraph.com

    • David says

      Hey Damon, thanks so much for visiting and for commenting. Really good insight into what is going on, I appreciate it.

      Like I said at the start of my post, I think we are lucky that we still have a daily paper here in Nashua at time when not every town has that luxury.

      Your take on the ads is interesting. Presumably your advertisers are getting some value from them since they are still there – like I said, I'm a huge fan of Adblock so I'm not normally confronted with them. Personally, I'd prefer to sign up for some kind of a subscription service than have to see the advertising. For example if the Adblock people said they were pulling the plug tomorrow unless everyone paid them $5 a month, I'd be reaching for the plastic right away – actually if they were smart that is what they should do.

      Have you looked at a subscription model for the Telegraph site? I wonder if our market is too small for it to work, especially if the Union Leader and Globe continue to be free for on-line content.

      Thanks for pointing out the Twitter users and the two blogs – I'll be checking them out for sure.

      Oh, on forums, did you see this post from Jason Falls the other day? http://bit.ly/j6zTN I'm not sure he's totally right, but there are are wacky people around.

      It really looks as though you are committed to making this whole on-line thing work. I think that's great and hope it works out well. I'm going to make a point of paying more attention and commenting on the blogs – I think if more people were to do that, the experience would get better for all concerned.

      One last thing – even though I tend to use Yelp a lot, I really like the reviews in the Table for Two section. We've had a lot of nice meals as a result!

      Cheers!
      David

      • says

        David -

        We are actually working on a program right now that will allow subscriptions, but I would not bill it as a pay-per-view model. With so many news outlets, and AP reprinting much of what we post online, I am not sure that a pure online subscription model can work anywhere. We are trying to develop something that brings readers added value (aside from 'just' news) that they would be willing to pay a small monthly fee for. Hopefully we can start a public conversation about that sometime late summer or early fall.

        Thanks for reading.

        Damon

        • David says

          Hey Damon, I love the idea of opening this up to some public discussion. It will be really interesting to see what kind of ideas people can come up with.

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