Knight-Ridder’s Inkling Webzine Scaled Back

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By: Steve Outing

Things don’t stay the same for long in this business. Inkling, the “Webzine” produced by Knight-Ridder New Media and containing the best journalism from the chain’s newspapers, is being scaled back to once per week publication. It had been updated five days a week.

Inkling was formally launched last March, produced by the New Media staff in San Jose, California. Managing editor Mark Weinberg says that the project is not being killed, but K-R New Media is shifting some of the resources used to support Inkling to an as yet unannounced corporate-wide Web project.

Faced with the need to shift resources, Weinberg says K-R executives looked at Inkling and decided that five days a week updating was overkill. Indeed, most other “Webzines” operate on a weekly schedule. The site will now be released with fresh content each Tuesday morning, though for major breaking stories it may be refreshed more frequently.

The best

The idea behind Inkling was and is to assemble the best journalistic work from the company’s newspapers, and repackage it in Web-appropriate format. On a typical day, the site took two people to produce — sometimes more when a major national or international breaking story made headlines. Stories in Inkling are not simple links to the stories as published on the originating newspaper Web site, but rather they are repackaged and republished on the Inkling site.

In an organization of varying newspaper sizes like Knight-Ridder, some Web sites make the effort to design Web-appropriate presentation for stories, while some smaller papers just shovel text onto the Web. Weinberg explains that the Inkling staff often will repackage what a newspaper has done, sometimes even generating new artwork, or splitting up a long story into smaller Web-appropriate chunks, or presenting a package in frames format.

Inkling might seem somewhat akin to New Century Network’s NewsWorks site, which aggregates the best journalism of its more than 100 member newspapers — including Knight-Ridder’s properties. NewsWorks is updated daily to create a sort of Webzine of its own. But Weinberg contends that NewsWorks is a different beast than Inkling, because it merely links to content where Inkling publishes it anew in a sort of online magazine.

Inkling was designed from the start to present the “high quality journalism that Knight-Ridder is known for,” says Weinberg. The company did not go into it with a revenue model, but with the idea that it would bring new traffic to K-R newspaper sites.

Web traffic

Traffic to the Inkling site has been moderate. Weinberg describes its page impression stats as equivalent to what a medium-size newspaper’s site would typically attract. It’s unlikely anytime soon to reach massive traffic levels, and thus become an effective advertiser draw on its own. Inkling also is delivered as HTML e-mail to about 15,000 subscribers through Netscape’s Inbox Direct program.

K-R newspaper sites are not required to run links to Inkling, although most do. Inkling itself also carries links to all K-R sites.

Weinberg describes producing Inkling as a very labor-intensive process, and the intent was to stay up to date daily with breaking deadline news. K-R New Media seems to have learned that the kind of personnel commitment to accomplish this is sizable, while the audience isn’t there to support it yet.

Inkling was a “big deal” when it was launched, but priorities change quickly in the interactive news business.

Contact: Mark Weinberg, mweinberg@newmedia.kri.com

(Disclaimer: It’s worth mentioning that Knight-Ridder New Media is a supporting sponsor of the online-news and online-newspapers Internet lists, which I operate.)

Most popular ‘net news sites

The “Top 100” Web site ranks the popularity of — among other categories — news Web sites. The rating service currently lists these news sites as the most popular on the Internet:

1) PathFinder, Warner Bros., and CNN sites
2) USA Today
3) The New York Times
4) CNET, Search.Com, News.Com and Download.com
5) The Weather Channel
6) Jerusaleum Post
7) Washington Post
8) China Times (In Chinese)
9) Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition
10) TotalNEWS

The Top 100 service is interesting because it ranks popularity based on intentional visits to home pages of Web sites, rather than total pages on a site accessed (many of them reached unintentionally via search engines).

Steve

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This column is written by Steve Outing exclusively for Editor & Publisher Interactive three days a week. News, tips, and other communications may be sent to Mr. Outing at steve@planetarynews.com

The views expressed in the above column do not necessarily represent the views of the Editor & Publisher company

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