Sunday, February 13, 2011

A comparison: Albany Democrat Herald and the DHonline

Greetings fellow students and random Internet surfers!

Today we are comparing old and new media in the form of the local newspaper (Albany Democrat Herald) with its online counter-part, the "DH-online" (which can be found by clicking here). This blog post is a class assignment from Rob Priewe, teacher of Media and Society at Linn Benton Community College.

One of the first things i did, in preparation for this blog entry was purchase a "Sunday Edition" of the Albany Democrat Herald. The family sat down to read the paper together, and we discussed which form we liked the best... even my five year old son had an opinion (shown in this video)!

video
Now that the introduction is out of the way and the fun family video has been shared, lets get down to the comparison:

Both the printed and online versions of the Albany Democrat Herald focus primarily on local interest areas. There are a few pages of print (and a few click-able links in the online version) dedicated to world and US news, but for the most part this newspaper is meant to inform locals of local matters. For persons interested in their community both of these versions are an excellent resource for news, information, and entertainment.

The printed version of the newspaper (the Sunday edition that i sampled) had a front page, sports, lifestyles and local/regional section. Each section includes specific types of news... Local headlines on the front page, with US and World news in the following four pages. The Sixth and final page of the front section contained a full page advertisement for a local car company. Section B is the ever popular Sports section! The front of the sports section covers high school and PAC-10 athletics with brightly colored pictures of local athletes. The five following pages contain mostly black and white photos and cover sports topics as diverse as national box scores, NASCAR, and the schedule for the local high schools basketball and golf teams. Section C (lifestyles) is aimed primarily at local women filled with advice columns and homey tips. My favorite part of the C section comes on the front page in the form of witty commentary from Mike Henneke (be sure to click on his name to visit Mike's face-book page... his status updates are usually charming). The final "real" section of the printed paper is Section D, local/region. This is my favorite section as it covers a few "human interest" type stories, local newsworthy events, the public safety log, global weather (with interesting commentary), and the opinion/editorial pages. I particularly enjoy reading the letters to the editor to see what is on the minds of my fellow mid valley residents. All four sections are just 6 pages long with front and back pages having color photos, the interior pages photos tend to be in black and white. There were two full page ads (the first mentioned previously, the second on the back page of section D). There were numerous other smaller ads for local businesses. As this was the Sunday Edition, there was inserted in the paper (by hard working ad-insert-ers out in the production room) about 50 pounds of ads. Seriously, it isn't that many ads, but tucked safely inside the classified section (which is also 6 pages) there were several glossy pages of ads for companies ranging from Safeway to Best Buy. It deserves mention that there are NO advertisements on the front page.

The online version of the Albany Democrat Herald is formatted slightly differently. The "front page" greets you with choices of three main stories (click 1, 2, or 3) several videos and colorful pictures and more links than you can shake a stick at. I did a quick count and found 119 places to click on the front page alone. There were many banner ads as well as numerous sidebar advertisements right on the front page with the news. On the positive side, most of the ads (although not all) are for local business or organizations, such as Santiam Christian School. Instead of the sections one finds in print, across the top of the web page you find links to sections including news, obits, sports, blogs, classified, community, cars, entertainment, photos, and many more. (DH-online logo lifted from face-book)

So, what sets the DH apart from other news publications? Both the online and print versions are designed for Albany area residents. The news and information it contains, even the advertising is targeted for those of us who live HERE. The paper (both print and online) focuses on things that interest locals. This is one of the Democrat Herald's greatest strengths, the people who write and edit our paper are citizens of our community; they live, work, and play here. They know us and what we want to see and hear, because it is usually what they themselves want to read about. Even other neighboring papers (incidentally owned by the same company, Lee Enterprises) do not target Albany the way the DH does, they target their towns. The Albany Democrat Herald targets ours. If the greatest strength of our paper is it's people, it's greatest weakness is the size of our town. With the advent of craigslist and similar Internet advertising sites, the classified advertising that used to be the mainstay money maker of our newspaper has dried up and the revenues have disappeared. Production costs have gone up and revenues have gone down, which mean prices have to go up to accommodate the loss. Our town may not be large enough or wealthy enough to support a daily paper for much longer unless the business model is altered to meet the challenges of the Internet age.
The main differences the come to mind between the print and online version all have to do with timeliness and reader contribution. The printed version is out of date the instant it comes off of the press, while the online version can be updated continually 24/7 to always have the most current local news. The online version of the paper has also enabled comments so that the community can talk about the story instantly online. Now, personally I read an article, then we discuss it in the family if it is interesting; but with comments i can discuss the articles at more length and with more people. Sure, the printed paper has an editorial section, but there is only so much space, where the online opinions and letters do not have that limitation. Another big difference is reader photos. The printed version of the newspaper contains a feature on page A2 the boasts one reader photo per day (Monday through Saturday). The website hosts and entire section dedicated to photographs taken by locals for sharing amongst the entire community, not just one at a time but hundreds!

To cover the last few points i may have missed:
I found nothing offensive or stereotypical in either version of the DH.
I prefer the printed paper, but i am old and more comfortable with what i know.
*note, if i could put the DH on my ebook reader as a daily, i would change my opinion of which version i prefer.
I believe that both the print and online versions are valuable because they each serve a different niche in our community.
I learned that there is more to the online version of the DH than i previously realized.
I also learned that my son can't say Albany Democrat Herald very well.

Lastly, i love the paper copy because, well, I like having a bit of newsprint at the end of the day to light the fireplace! I can't just throw my laptop in the firepit (although there have been times i was tempted to do just that).

(thanks to Cam, from Kent Washington for the great fireplace pic!)

Warning: I will return with more/less info as circumstances warrant, but i wanted to get this out and published so i could go to town and buy a pizza. I got a coupon out of the newspaper!

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