Our world is wired; newspaper must be too

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

Face it. The world is logged on, wired up and plugged in for good and we won’t ever be going back.

Less than 15 years after the World Wide Web became commercially widespread, the Internet has become an integral part of our electronic-dependent society.

Perhaps the most intimidating thing for some people is just the jargon. Everywhere you go it is “wi-fi” this, “hotspot” that.

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“Bluetooth” has nothing to do with dental hygiene and everything to do with wireless linking of electronic devices.

Like it or not, computers — and the Internet — are here to stay and the rest of us have to get on board.

Computers — which now essentially come built into modern cell phones — are popping up everywhere and have become ingrained in our culture. Take these away and you will see panic ensue. Businesses rely on computers more than ever. Students are often confused without them.

A recent study by Pew Research Center revealed that 70 percent of adults use the Internet regularly. More than 80 percent of adults between 18 and 49 go online.

With computer costs dropping almost daily and facilities such as libraries, senior centers, colleges and coffee shops offering free online access, the economic barrier that once existed has almost gone away.

What does all this mean? Computers and the Internet will continue to be more fully entrenched in our culture and society must adapt or get left behind.

Newspapers are no different — and may have even more at stake than some other businesses.

For years, newspapers have begun to seek an online presence; but with only mixed results.

The biggest problem is that most newspapers — and The Ironton Tribune is no different — try to take a paper-product mentality and cram it onto an electronic medium.

The reality is that newspapers and the Internet are different media and have to be treated as such.

Most of the newspaper Web sites that are truly successful are the ones that are more innovative and go beyond what a printed product can offer.

Soon, The Ironton Tribune will try to move that direction with the unveiling of the new and improved Web site.

While I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag too soon, readers can expect more content including news and photos, more reader-friendly options and more interactivity.

We want to continue to offer our readers a free and convenient way to access the news they need, yet another reason we feel we serve Lawrence County better than anyone.

But that doesn’t mean we will be taking anything away from the paper product that will still offer some exclusive content. In fact, we plan on several ways of tying the online and paper editions together.

Maybe a poll you take online will show up in the newspaper. Or maybe a reader-submitted photograph will be posted online and then in the newspaper.

The possibilities are limitless and all good newspapers — and other businesses — have to get on board or face being left behind.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.