The Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, MA)
About this entry: Despite experiencing a period of organizational transition, The Cape Cod Times never stopped producing top-notch news, entertainment features and brilliant special sections. Its successful push toward digital combined with its community engagement makes it the perfect example of what it means to be the Newspaper of the Year.
Read some of Cape Cod Times’ major projects online: Mashpee superintendent allegedly entered student’s house uninvited, Climate change hits home, Saving the Cape’s turtles
The Cape Cod Times delivers first-rate journalism on highly diverse topics. Its strong reporting and editing included enterprise projects on climate change, endangered turtles, heroin addiction, and a nuclear power station’s safety violations. Spot news coverage was also spot-on. Commitment to digital and mobile storytelling is growing, too.
What new initiatives or projects did your newspaper launch in 2015?
The CapeCodOnline project cannot be over-estimated. For years, we have faced a situation where CCOL was our home page but was indistinguishable from CapeCodTimes.com, which essentially was our news page. The two were twins we wanted to separate, and we finally were able to do so in 2015.
We completely reinvented CCOL as a leisure and lifestyle website, catered to the $1.2 Billion tourism industry on the Cape and Islands. Nobody owned this niche, and with our strong content and sizable sales force, we were in a position to do it. That much was obvious, but it was a big leap to move away from the comfort zone of a newspaper.com.
The result: www.capecodonline.com, launched in January, was the result of months of foundation work to create a business plan, research best practices, build the site template, populate the pages, and then begin selling. In the first month, unique traffic grew 58 percent. We expect YOY increases of 20 percent. Ad revenue has started strong and we are very confident we will meet our goal of $200,000 this year.
Meanwhile, by reinventing CCOL, we’ve solidified CapeCodTimes.com as the newspaper website, making it clear to audience and advertisers what the mission of both is. CCT.com traffic also was up 11 percent at the same time as the CCOL launch.
The new approach for CCOL has created a new digital channel for us and has given CCT.com new attention as the home of our premium journalism. We are now working with other East Coast GateHouse properties to share the CCOL model so it can be rolled out in Florida, Newport, and the New Hampshire seacoast, among other destinations.
How did you involve readers in your newspaper (reader advisory boards, focus groups, contests, reader-submitted content) in 2015?
We had numerous community engagement efforts. Here are a few:
- Two special sections, Rising Stars and Classroom Times, are purely reader-connection products. With Rising Stars, members of the community submit a high school student who is a stand-out in arts, sports, academics, or any number of extra-curricular activities. A panel of judges select the top of the class, and the resulting special section, published just prior to high school graduation season, is an amazing collection of young talent. As for Classroom Times, this section actually begins early in the school year, as teachers build the contest into their curriculum. Hundreds of students from around the Cape compete in various writing, photography and design categories. Again, the section that is published is the ultimate in refrigerator news, as a panel of CCT judges select first-, second-, and third-place winners, who all receive a nominal cash prize.
- Our features editor, whose passion is movies and has been reviewing them for the CCT for 20 years, held a “best the critic” contest, whereby readers were encouraged to submit their Oscar picks to see if they could better predict the winners than he could. Hundreds were submitted (and 24 people beat him!).
- Throughout the year, but particularly in the summer, we ask readers to pick the Top 10 in dozens of categories: best ice cream shop, best clam shack, best beach, etc. The response has been overwhelming at times, and the ensuing Top 10 lists are always filled with comments on social media, with readers agreeing, disagreeing, or offering other alternatives.
We have a weekly reader photo gallery that routinely generates several dozen photos and drive significant web traffic.
- We also conducted numerous online contest, such as best pet, best mom, Readers Choice and others.
- Starting 2016, we reestablished a Reader Panel (we had done this for years, but it ran its course). With the distance of a few years, the idea is clearly reinvigorated, as we received 60 applicants to be on the panel from a wide range of engaged readers. We look forward to the results this year.
How did you experiment with digital storytelling tools in 2015?
In addition to the “traditional” digital storytelling methods, we’ve been using new whizzbang tools that enhance the readers’ experience, such as the Knight Lab StoryMap, which has allowed us to create beautiful slider timelines.
We also are experimenting with other social media. Our innovation team has been using Snapchat, Periscope and podcasts as a way to reach out to a new demographic.
Snapchat, in particular, has been effective in reaching younger readers. While it does not directly draw people to our website, it has virally spread our work; for example, our sports writer has been using Snapchat at sporting events and kids have been asking where they can follow him. Today, a mother of one of the athletes asked if they could use a Snapchat from a state championship match at an awards banquet. We are pleased to see how it is building a new audience with the expectation that we can draw them to our more traditional journalism once they feel a connection.
Honorable Mention: The Herald Tribune (Sarasota, FL)
About this entry: The award-winning Herald Tribune is a constant source of impactful, engaging and important stories covering a wide range of topics from mental health to immigration. It is community focused and driven by an amazing team of journalists who never stop striving to be the very best source for news.
Read online: Insane. Invisible. In danger.
The Herald Tribune staff excels through the leadership of editor Bill Church’s commitment to innovative journalism. This past year, despite a 22 percent staff reduction, a collaborative environment produced powerful staff projects on wealthy foreigners jumping to the front of the immigration line, guardianship, homelessness, and a groundbreaking report on chaos in mental hospitals in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times. On a lighter note, a special section of the legacy of the Flying Wallendas must have been of great interest to Sarasota’s uniquely diverse retirement community. Mobile innovations included unravel.us engaging the region’s young professionals.