Enjoying the richness of the Empire Web site

Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Vantage Point By Robert Hale, publisher of the Juneau Empire.

During a discussion May 11 about the Empire's internet Web site, members of our reader advisory board expressed some surprise that the site has undergone as much development as it has in the past several months. Most of them check in at the site frequently, they said, but they were unaware that our site is as rich with content as it is.

Our Web site has undergone quite an evolution in the past couple of years, and there are a couple of things about it that make it much more than the online presence for our printed newspaper. The first is the breadth of content that can be found there. The other is that our site now gets more than 2.5 million page views each month, a number that continues to grow.

First, about content, which makes the site so valuable to us and to our readers. Since its inception the Empire's Web site has contained all or most of the content from our printed edition as well as information about how to subscribe, how to place display and classified ads, etc. It has also had a link to our sister Web site, juneaualaska.com, which is almost entirely for and about Juneau. There you'll find much of the city's history, slide shows from community events, entertainment information - including fishing guides, hiking maps and the like - and a video tour of Juneau landmarks. There are also links to a number of local video webcams.

Some of the newest content links we've added include UAS Connections, where the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau provides access to class schedules and course listings, admissions information, a virtual tour of the campus and answers to frequently asked questions. There is also Juneau Softball, where every week we post game wraps, action and candid photos and links to the Sitka Softball Association and to Softball Yukon, the Web site for the Yukon Amateur Softball Association.

There are also links to the Juneau Job Center's job fair, which was held at Centennial Hall in March, and to our Juneau Brides "Love Story Series," which features 31 stories of love and romance written by our readers, one of which will be voted as the best by our readers in online voting through the end of this month.

Next, about our Web viewership, which is of immeasurable importance to us and to our advertisers, who of course want to reach as many visitors to our site as possible. Online advertising is becoming more targeted and more specialized every day, and because of that, content that is rich, robust and interactive is at the forefront of the industry today.

In another month the Juneau Empire is moving to user registration for its Web site, as are most newspapers and magazines. That means that if you want full access to most of the information on our Web site, you'll have to register with us in order to get it.

Registration is a major step forward for us, for our readers and for our advertisers. It will allow us to further improve our Web site to better suit the needs of our readers, to better serve our online advertisers and, ultimately, to keep the content of our Web site free.

As of this Wednesday visitors to our Web site will be able to pre-register prior to our June 22 "go-live" date. Registering with us takes but a couple of minutes, and we're looking for only a few pieces of information about our online readers.

At this point, the question would be why we're requiring registration, and that's an easy one to answer. The information we get from our readers will allow us to know something about who visits our site, what they visit on our site and what content readers value most. Knowing that, we'll be able to let our advertisers know with greater precision who visits our site and what they visit when there. That will allow them to tailor advertising messages that are more relevant to their target audience.

Here's how online registration will work for us and for you. Anyone visiting our site will still be able to view our home page and read headlines on section fronts such as our main section, sports, classifieds, etc., as well as our related Web sites, alaskalegislature.com, juneaualaska.com and juneaubrides.com.

To access any of the content behind those section fronts, or any of our archived or special content, registration will be required. Once you register you will not have to register or log in again as long as your computer settings are correct and stay the same.

Online readers will still be able to view our classified ads and special advertising sections such as southeastalaskahomes.com, NetMarketplace and juneauworks.com, without going through the registration process.

We'll have more information about the registration process and a few special things we'll be doing to make the process easy for users of juneauempire.com.

• Robert Hale is the publisher of the Juneau Empire. He can be reached at robert.hale@juneauempire.com

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