You know how companies roll out something brand new and immediately want to co-brand it as “Improved!” — they always make sure to include the exclamation point by the way.
A screen shot of our beta website under construction. It’s pretty far from finished.
Well, coming soon, www.thetimesnews.com will roll out a new website. And for now I will refrain from adding the obligatory “Improved!” — but I won’t forget exclamation point.
But only for the moment.
Let me explain.
Coming on Sept. 27, come hell, high water, the rapture, basketball-sized hail, a watchable Adam Sandler movie, another win in football by Wake Forest or some other relatively cataclysmic or inconceiveable event, we will unveil our new website. Now usually companies don’t set a hard date for such a thing. We have technical experts in some unknown place put the pieces together under the direction of a team of people here at our office. The process has fits and starts — mostly fits. Some things work, others do not. We test our changes on a beta site. If things don’t appear to be functioning we simply postpone the launch for a day or two. No harm, no foul. We never announced a date anyway.
Not this time.
Our former owners, Freedom Communications, is shutting down the servers that feed the web sites for all of the North Carolina and Florida newspapers it sold to Halifax Media in July. That means offsite techs from Halifax have been in overdrive trying to get nearly a dozen sites up and running by the drop-dead date of Sept. 27 — a time that also happens to be my wedding anniversary. Don’t expect me home for dinner that night, Ro.
For the past couple of weeks our interactive director Roger Creasy has seen his stress level rise to that of a political campaign manager on Election Day. He’s overseeing the transition for our newspapers in the Piedmont and western North Carolina. Many of us have spent as many as eight hours on conference calls in which we have received training for how to place stories, photos and video on our new site.
That part wasn’t too difficult. At the moment we are posting stories on our current site and the one that is a work in progress. We are doing the latter so users will find content there when they call up www.thetimesnews.com on Sept. 27. The only stories there at first will be those posted over the past couple of weeks. Our archive material will be transferred over later. The goal now is to just get the site up and running by the deadline.
That will be challenging enough.
Right now, we’re working in our office to set up the site. Just yesterday I spent two hours on a conference call that was supposed to teach me how to build pages under multiple headings so users can easily navigate and find stories. This traning reminded me of Algebra classes I took in high school — the same classes that nearly doomed me to a lifetime of failure. Actually, I think I have a better chance of finally understanding Algebraic equations than something called Metadata Driven Publishing Queue.
Anyway, the upshot is this: We’re pretty far behind in putting together our new website and no matter how much we accomplish between now and next week, it will look like an unfinished product. But there is good news. That’s where the “Improved!” part comes in — note use of the exclamation point.
Our new site will offer us greater power and flexibility in-house to make changes and enhancements on the fly. This is a 180 degree difference from our previous ownership. If we wanted to make any changes in our site under Freedom, it might take weeks to accomplish.
So while we might not be exactly perfect on Sept. 27, we will have the ability to alter that almost immediately. It’s something we begged for under our previous owners– autonomy of our website. Now, we’ll get it. I’m reminded of the adage of being careful what you wish for.
Anyway, I’ll keep folks posted here on what will and will not be available when the new site is up. I can say there will be no changes in some services. For example, we will continue to offer our replica edition via Olive. Obituaries will be posted under Legacy.com. Our Info Center won’t change. Facebook commenting will remain.
And if anyone wants to get a look at what our site will sort of look like, check the Wilmington Star News.
And keep us in your thoughts. We need all the positive vibes we can get.