TV-Newspapers Combo Beats Individual Small Sites

By: Steve Outing If you are E.W. Scripps Co. and you own several small newspapers and a TV station all in close proximity along the eastern coast of Florida, what do you do? Create Web sites for each of them, or create a single site that all of the properties share?

The latter, of course. Scripps recently launched a new Web site called, also known as "Your Guide to Florida's Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches," which serves as the single news-oriented Web site covering a four-county region roughly between Boca Raton and Sebastian. (That's about 90 miles of Florida's eastern coast, in the middle of the state.) operates with a staff of eight housed at the Stuart News, one of six Scripps newspapers participating in the new project, although the Web site only shares office space with the paper; Web staffers are not newspaper employees. staffers work with each of the papers -- none of whom have a Web site nor any new media employees -- and the Scripps-owned local NBC television affiliate, WPTV Channel 5. Each provides content for the site. It also is supported by Scripps' corporate new media operations and programmers in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Alternative breaking news medium new media director Stephen Dana explains that the concept was simply to combine the Scripps resources in the area to provide a central place on the Web that area residents can come for local and regional news. It combines newspaper reporting with video from Channel 5 ported to the Web, and is designed to be updated throughout the day. Indeed, the site can even replace TV news (for those with a fast enough Internet connection); Channel 5's morning, noon, evening and nighttime newscasts are put on the Web live, viewed using RealVideo software.

The staff arrives at the office early in the morning, explains Dana, and feeds stories from the newspapers' morning editions in to the Web site, using a Web production system from Pantheon/Zip2. From the site's home page, you can click on any of the newspapers or Channel 5 to see content from a particular news organization.

While the main updating takes place early in the morning, the site is meant to cover breaking news through the day. For the newspapers, that's not necessarily an everyday thing, but Dana says that a Web form-based system has been set up that allows the newsroom editors to update stories when they wish. If the Web staff is not working, editors can still update their Web news areas.

The real timeliness of the site is provided by Channel 5. In addition to the Web-cast news programs, some of the TV news stories are put on to the Web site in RealVideo format.

For viewers, this is "a user's dream," says Dana, because it provides a wealth of news information in one place, on demand. A major local story late last week was the case of a West Palm Beach mother who allegedly threw her baby out of her car while speeding along an interstate highway. On the site, you could read newspaper accounts of the story or view Channel 5's video coverage. For a story of this magnitude, the newspapers will provide their own reporting during the day, not leaving TV reporters to scoop them.

The goal, says Dana, is to get people into the habit of checking in on the site 3-4 times per day by becoming known as a place to go for major breaking news. During a recent flood in Palm Beach, the site quickly posted updated news and information about road closures, for example.

Other features of the site include a user-controllable Web camera, which can look up and down Florida's Intercoastal Waterway from atop a tower in West Palm Beach. also is developing niche sections for the site, such as an "Over 50" seniors section, a local entertainment area, and an "On The Water" section covering recreational water activities in the region.

The site is supported primarily by advertising, which is sold by the staff. While the newspapers' and TV station's ad staffs can sell in to the site, Dana says the complexities of an online ad sale lend themselves more to having a dedicated ad staff. The site also supports itself with business Web site hosting and Dana plans to add additional revenue streams as the project evolves.

Cooperate, cooperate, cooperate

A challenge for any project like this is getting the newsrooms to cooperate fully, especially when there are no Web staffers physically located in the newsrooms. Dana says that the model was designed such that the newsrooms have some control over what goes onto the site and can customize to some degree how their areas of the site look. Dana is convinced that they do feel enfranchised. "The newspapers have been great," he says. They realize that rather than devote one or two people in their offices to new media that they can be part of a much better quality Web service.

Dana believes that a major part of having succeed is to establish strong relationships with people in the various newsrooms, "at the grassroots level" and not just among newsroom executives. In addition to getting a lot of phone and e-mail feedback from the newspaper and TV staffs, he also encourages his producers to visit the newsrooms in person.

E.W. Scripps Co. vice president of new media Neal Fondren says that getting newsroom buy-in to supporting the site was not at all a challenge. "When they understood the benefit, it didn't take any coercion on our part" to get them to cooperate fully, he says. "They understand the future."

Fondren says the concept behind the site may be used in other markets where Scripps owns media properties, but he's not willing to say where and when, for fear of tipping his hand to competitors.

Contact: Stephen Dana,


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This column is written by Steve Outing for Editor & Publisher Interactive. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at

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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

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