Dear Readers for Sept. 11, 2008

I told you several weeks ago that we had a lot of exciting things going on at Blount Today that I want to continue to share with you. Sometimes I feel it is egotistical to think you really care about the ins-and-outs, the workings of your community newspaper, but I’ve been in this business a long time. In that time, I have found that most people are a little bit fascinated by the working press. What is routine to me is often the source of 100 questions from my friends.

So, when we do something new and/or different here at Blount Today, I like to share it with you.

The “new” things at Blount Today reflect our changing business. Our website has exploded. We are still in the process of selling all our ad spaces, but we went ahead and revamped our site months ago, and the response has been tremendous.

I think I know why. The Blount Today core product website -- -- is a perfect match for our readers. It’s clean and extremely interactive, but it doesn’t overwhelm you. We don’t have anything jumping out at you from our website or popping up to annoy you.

We don’t even have big ad boxes in the middle of our stories, although the money-folks I have to answer to haven’t let me rule that out as a future revenue source.

But for now, we have two, nice clean ad spaces on each page -- a Big Box ad and a Banner Ad -- that can each hold five ads that rotate through as you read the page. Right now we are primarily doing what we call “house ads,” which means it’s our stuff we are selling and promoting while we get everything tweaked just right. By the end of this week, we are ready to feature our local businesses in those spaces.

The other change that really reflects our changing business is the number of “visitors” we get each day and month on our website. I hoped it would double when we changed our format to the one we have now. It tripled. Everyday more folks tell me they read the paper “first” on the website. Seems you still like to pick up the “hard copy” and get a look at how it is all put together, but you go to the website to get a sneak preview. For us, that’s the best of both worlds! We certainly put a lot of effort into putting our core product in your hands and in making it “read and flow” well, so we have no plans to abandon print. But our website gives us some flexibility that a weekly newspaper needs.

“Breaking News” lets us get important information to you that you really don’t want to wait a week to read.

Our “Breaking News” alerts are another thing that we try very hard not to abuse. We don’t have the staff to cover every traffic accident or court case in a Breaking News alert. We try to save those for the things we think will either greatly impact your life or that you have a real curiosity or concern about. We certainly used our Breaking News alerts on election night, and actually beat our competition with vote totals in the Senate primary. We sent one out tonight, just a few hours ago, to tell you who the new judge is in Blount County. If something important happens at the County Commission meeting or school board meeting or on the football field, we get the story, post it on our website and send you an email.

How do we decide when to do a Breaking News alert? I wish it were a perfect science. We’re a small staff here at Blount Today -- 7 1/2 of us -- so we have to pick and choose our battles. But those 7 1/2 people seem to be everywhere and know lots of people, so we do get lots of tips and hear lots of things. If it makes us say, “Wow!” or “Oh, no!” or “That’s terrible!” we will probably send our editor, Lance Coleman, to ferret out the story and get it on the website. Sometimes one of our sister papers, the Knoxville News Sentinel or Memphis Commercial Appeal or any of the other Scripps papers, will come across something that relates to Blount County and will let us know, and we send you a link to their story. We like it better when it’s OUR story you’re reading, but having a big family can be good, too.

I’m out of room, and I don’t want to squeeze the Crossword Puzzle, so I’ll save the other new website things for another Dear Readers column. But don’t wait on me. In addition to, check out, and, our newest, They are different kinds of websites from our core product, but I think you’ll like them, too.

If you want to get our Breaking News alerts, send me an email that simply says “Sign me up for Breaking News.” We will add you to our growing list.

By the way, you can add your comments on this column and every story we have in Blount Today by reading it on our website and then adding your comments to the end. I am really interested in how you like our new crossword puzzle. I think it’s a little hard, but I’m not a real smart crossword-er. Let me know.

Until next week, keep reading!

Sherri Gardner Howell


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Comments » 2

Bogie writes:

I like the idea of a crossword puzzle. However, it's a bit difficult, at least for me. Do you plan to publish the answers next week? Or did I miss them somewhere in the paper?

tbright writes:

The answers are in the classified section for the week on page C3.