You know the feeling when you look at something for so long that you almost stop seeing it?
Sometimes that’s how I look at our website. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to make the website better and about what services and features to add, but when it comes right down to it, I have no idea how to approach the website as someone who’s not familiar with its every nook and cranny.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently because I’m on the regional technology team convened by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, one of 11 committees across the state working on regional technology plans for their area.
The basic idea is this: what comes next after the goal of universal broadband is achieved in Vermont?
The team pulls together people from many sectors in the county: business, media, libraries, nonprofits and emergency services, to name a few.
One thing is clear: technology and connectedness via the web has a huge amount of potential in all of these sectors, but it also requires a huge amount of adaptation and change. The big question now is how do we harness that potential, and where do we go from here?
It’s a question that I think about all the time with regard to our website: how can we use the technology we have now to bring information to you, our readers, more efficiently? And somewhat more selfishly, how can we better engage you, our readers, so that you’ll be more inclined to share and reshare the news we offer?
Then there’s that other thing, the part of the online news equation that haunts news organizations large and small alike: how do we make our website a profitable part of our business? Do we bombard you with advertisements? Do we create even more content solely for the web to drive more traffic there? Do we raise our online subscription prices higher and higher? Do we put all of our content — multimedia, photos, news, sports and all — behind a paywall?
I think the correct answer is going to lie somewhere in between all of these possibilities, and don’t worry: I’ll be subjecting you with my thoughts and opinions on these matters as we develop the regional technology plan, and as I work on the media portion of that plan.
But I don’t want it to just be me shouting into the ether. I want to hear from you. What do you like about our site? What don’t you like? What would you like to see more of, and what would make it easier for you to stay informed? Shout it out in the comments section below!
I’ll also be writing a series of articles in the coming weeks that focuses on technology in a whole array of those different sectors. Those articles will each include contact information and an invitation to readers to weigh in with their opinions, so if you’ve got thoughts on any of these subjects, tell someone! We’d love to hear from you. After all, the Internet is all about communication.
And now, without further ado, I give you something that makes me feel less, well, overwhelmed by it all: a retrospective of our website each year from 1998 until today, pulled from the Wayback Machine.
Sometimes when it's hard to think about how far we still have to go, it helps to look at how far we've come.
Just one note: 2008 and 2009 didn't show up right at all, and we switched to our current design in June, 2009.