Internet proposal for the Guardian

The Trinidad Publishing Company should have one goal for its Internet pres- ence, the development of an information portal that defines the company’s product as the go to resource for news and reporting on Trinidad and Tobago.

Current status
With no access to data on the Guardian’s web statistics, I have relied on the website’s Alexa rankings for guidance as to its relative positioning on the web, particularly as compared to other information services available on the Internet.

The Guardian’s current Alexa rating is 57,810, which places it roughly midway between the Express and Newsday in the top 100,000 of websites in the world. Unfortunately, this ranking is part of an overall trending downward exhibited by the top three regional papers in Alexa’s tracking, the Jamaica Gleaner, the Trinidad Express and the Guardian. Newsday has maintained roughly the same level of interest across the three year tracking period.

Trinidad Guardian Web development strategy
This downward trend is inevitable, considering both the growth of other web-based sources of information that are focused increasingly on attractive niches and the relative stagnancy of the four regional newspaper websites tracked here. The one non-newspaper website included in the Alexa statistics is, which focuses exclusively on reporting, via photography of participants, on parties.

It’s worth noting that Triniscene’s numbers are virtually indistinguishable from Newsday’s. A Wayback examination of searched and archived Guardian pages reveals an- other troubling factor. According to Wayback Machine search catalogs, the Guardian has been posting and making available for search fewer pages to the Internet over the last year than it did in 2004 and 2005.

Next Steps
If the Trinidad Publishing Company intends to leverage its most valuable asset, the reporting that it has published for more than 90 years, into a web presence that will carry it into new streams of content delivery, there are some funda- mental decisions that must be made.

Reconfigure the engine of content delivery. All modern providers of web-based content that’s generated in volume separate design, the look and feel of the website, from content. Doing so in 2008 is normally achieved through some form of content management software.

The most sophisticated method is to store data in a modern database system such as some flavour of SQL, access that information using a content management engine and deliver the content dynamically to the web through tagged publishing schedules and search engine delivery of archived content.

The specifics of software are mercurial, and it may well be worth it to investigate how the largest newspapers manage their content on the backend and which solutions have proven to be the most robust and appropriate for use in a news- paper.

Redesign the website
Recreate the Guardian online’s web presence to represent that of a modern, forward-looking company which has chosen to wilfully separate its web presence from the traditions of its print past. This will demand that the editing of the online publication play to the potential of the Internet, which can accommodate massively parallel information flows. The traditions of newsgathering have been focused on the funnelling of news and information for publication and broadcast.

Our Internet presence offers an opportunity to explore “super niches” like those being exploited by focused information providers such as, and other local content delivery vehicles. The vast store of reporting, photography, audio and video clips that are filtered for publication are not filtered debris on the newsroom cutting floor on the web, but an opportunity for defining our web presence with unparalleled depth and richness. It’s a fundamentally different way of thinking and the design of the website must reflect that potential.

Resuscitate the archive
A key distinguishing characteristic of the Guardian that will be crucial to creating a market leading web presence on the Internet is our archive of stories and photographs. Until this asset goes live on the Internet, TPC on the web will be just another local news company trying to build a web presence. With it, we are a unique re- source.

Make money
The capacity of the Trinidad Publishing Company to make money on the Inter- net will be directly tied to its position as an authority on the sector of informa- tion gathering that it has declared to be its business. With relatively few exceptions, the subscription model has failed completely for newspapers and other newsgathering businesses on the web. Advertising continues to be the only viable way to monetize a web presence, but making that work requires some specialised thinking.

Instead of thinking about the website as an entity that can attract advertising, it will be necessary to think of the website as a vehicle for “zones of authority,” sectors in the providing of information about Trinidad and Tobago in which we can establish ourselves as the market leading provider of definitive reporting. Each of these zones of authority is a powerful draw for potential readership for the entire website and creates a compelling reason for a specific profile of reader to visit the site and to explore other content.

Create a task-focused team
Getting from here to there will require a team dedicated to the building, implementation and selling of an Internet presence for the Trinidad Publishing Company. We will need to begin with a new commitment to backroom resources tasked specifically with building a virtual structure capable of doing what we hope to achieve.

These techs will be focused on the imperatives of creating a rich Web 2.0 experience for online readers and will balance ease of access with new technologies that keep the site modern and accessible. These techs will work hand in hand with an editorial team focused on re- filtering the raw streams of information available in the newsrooms of TPC for the broader potential of Internet delivery. Their focus will be on delivering an unparalleled Internet information experience for visitors to the site.

Finally, we will need to engage dedicated advertising sales people who will focus on the local and international potential for customers seeking to leverage their sales potential through our revamped web presence.

Such an advertising team will be fully aware of the value of the resource they are selling, the markets it makes available to advertisers and deliver sales strategies that leverage our strengths while offering feedback to the Internet publication team on new avenues for enriched coverage that will generate new marketing possibilities.

In conclusion...
Achieving the goal of becoming the top-ranked information resource for Trinidad and Tobago will require an almost complete reversal of thinking about our web presence. Instead of a dumping ground for the barest minimum of our content, the new web presence will need to cherry pick, web filter and aggregate the raw feed of the existing information gathering assets of the entire company into a definitive daily profile of the news and reporting of the day on an up to the minute basis.

We will have to acknowledge the web presence as the competitor to our existing businesses that we are grooming for our own eventual profit and sustainability and create a framework that supports the project. Anything less will simply allow another company to do it instead.
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