When Niles West News debuted, I knew we had to update often; otherwise, readers wouldn’t come back to the site. But how immediate does an a student-run website need to be?
Once you and your staff make the decision to “go online,” the ability (and the pressure) to be immediate is there. For most of us, this is the exciting part of online media: You no longer need to wait a month for your print paper to arrive. However, it’s also the scary part. How is my staff going to produce enough content to update daily, when I can barely get them to make their print deadlines?
I worried about this, too-especially with a small staff at the beginning of the year. And, at first, it wasn’t so bad. Since the NWN was new to this, the expectations were low among the readers. We were updating at least every other day, sometimes daily–and if we weren’t running a new story, we had a new photo gallery or video or poll up instead.
But I still put pressure on my staff to be “faster.” “When will that story be done? It’s getting old,” I would hear myself say to my editors. There is a small window of opportunity for posting a breaking news story online: somewhere between right now and three days from now–and there’s not much room to budge. For example, no one is going to care about why we had a fire alarm three days from now, they care today. “What are people talking about?” I always ask my students. (Of course, when they say, “nothing,” I laugh and say, “That’s not possible.”)
Soon my staff began to put pressure on themselves–and our staff grew–and by second semester, we were posting two to five new articles a day. And then our readers started to expect it.
Recently, a reader criticized my staff (in a comment) for being too “slow” and taking “forever” when posting the state swimming story. My sports editor posted it five days after the results were announced; however, a few weeks prior, he had posted a girls basketball post-season game story the next day. This discrepancy upset this reader.
There were many reasons for the delay–most of all, the three tests my editor had that week–but I tell you all this story, as a warning:
If you’re going to go online, know you CAN be immediate, you’ll WANT to be immediate, you WILL BE immediate–and, eventually, your readers WILL EXPECT you to be immediate.
Anyone else feel this pressure?