Column: Spruced-up Web site complements the print paper

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 8, 2001

The effects of a technological bomb called the Internet are still rippling across the media landscape, the shock waves rearranging and redefining as they go.

Sunday, July 08, 2001

The effects of a technological bomb called the Internet are still rippling across the media landscape, the shock waves rearranging and redefining as they go. So what does the future hold for the printed newspaper? Will it be replaced by an online version?

Email newsletter signup

For my money, the Internet will complement, not replace, the newsprint version, because both media have things to offer that the other can’t.

At the Tribune, we’ve had a Web site out in cyberspace for a few years now, and we’ve been working on refining it over the last few months. We now feel we’ve got something that complements the printed paper without replacing it. The Web site and the paper serve different functions, and you can use one, the other or both.

Basically, the site used to be a different way of viewing the same stuff you see in the Tribune every day. If you were away and wanted to check on what was happing in Freeborn County, that was handy. And we still post the top news, sports and opinion from each day’s paper for viewing on-line.

But we’re starting to work on new tools that you can’t find in the daily paper. Here are some examples:

n The Question of the Week is a new interactive feature that links the newspaper with the Web site. You can log on to, vote on the week’s question and view the results of the poll.

The questions are going to be probes of general opinion on whatever topics are in the news. Last week, we asked readers’ opinions on why Freeborn County has had so much rain the last few years (most people thought it was a cyclical weather pattern, with bad luck, El Nino/La Nina and global warming finishing 2-3-4 in the voting).

We’re going to publish the results of each week’s question, along with the new question, each Monday in the Tribune. The results are, of course, not scientific, since only those who are skilled online can vote, and it’s possible that people could vote more than once (although you’re only allowed one vote per Internet connection). The respondents should not be construed to be a statistically sound sample, but the results should be interesting, anyway.

n We’re going to add a new section for our Lifestyles stories. This portion of our Sunday paper has not been on the Web site in the past, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. You will be able to go on-line to see this week’s stories, or go back a few weeks to reread something you want another look at.

n Our summer recreation section, &uot;FYI: Slice of Summer,&uot; will have a home on the Web. If you don’t have a paper copy with you, you can log on and check out all the stories on summer events and attractions around Freeborn County and the surrounding area. This will be available soon.

n For those who want to be even more interactive, we’ve got a series of discussion forums. You can log in and post your response to news stories or editorials. You can start your own discussions on sports, education, religion, or whatever you want.

This is a feature I don’t think many people know about. People who read the Tribune are clearly interested in voicing their own opinions; I am always surprised at how many letters to the editor we get. The on-line forums are a perfect chance to take discussions to another level.

n We’ve also got a new Internet business directory, where readers can click on links to find Web sites for other businesses in the area. It’s kind of like an Internet phone book for businesses and organizations.

n Finally, we have a new system that ensures that our daily classified section is posted on the Web site. We had technical difficulties in this area, but I’m proud to report that our Internet classifieds are looking better than ever – complete and up to date.

It may sound like you can get it all on-line, but I don’t think that threatens the traditional newspaper. After all, people still like to hold a paper in their hands and page through at their leisure, scanning headlines and looking at ads. The hand-held paper is still easier to navigate. You can hang onto it or clip articles. And with the Tribune, anyway, there’s still a lot of content in the printed version that you won’t find online.

I know there is a place for both the Web and the printed Tribune. I don’t think the former can replace the latter. But with the Tribune’s new on-line additions, it’s clear that newspapers can offer more if we use both.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at