PI print readers woke up Wednesday morning to find their daily paper replaced by mere pixels....and Tweets. The online-only PI, seeking to define Second Life anew, added a Twitter feed to its home page. "Seattle Tweets" captures a few Twitter microposts, this afternoon heavy on TV station tips to whale video. Hey, it's the Northwest.
Reporting that its daily pageviews have grown a bit to 1.9 million on its first of school, from an average of 1.7 million pre-switchover, the new PI is heavy on blogs Seattle 911 (crime), Seattle Sports Blog and The Big Blog (a lively pastiche of local culture and news), a smattering of breaking news and featured photos. An easy-to-launch live March Madness CBS is featured the top of the page. A personalizable mypi down the right rail. Lots fewer PI stories, of course, with the reporting staff gone.
Many AP stories, some of them regional/local (which may ironically show AP's ramping value to shrinking newspaper companies).
And: no links (today) to the Seattle Times or the more direct media competition, Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, and Crosscut.
Yahoo HotJobs has already been plugged in as the jobs site, through Hearst's involvement in the newspaper consortium. Autos is a link to Kelley Blue Book, real estate is mainly (archival) editorial for now.
Amid the maelstrom of change, I asked Michelle Nicolosi, who heads the site, to answer some basics. She's the Executive Producer of the new PI, and you can see from her resume, she's been around the online newspaper world.
Day 2, here's a sense of what's inspired her, how she hopes to distinguish the site her online philosophy and how her 20-person staff will do the new journalism:
Q: Which sites -- newspaper or non-newspaper -- do you look at for inspiration or as models?
A lot of ideas come from looking at all the cool new tools that are constantly being developed, and sitting back and thinking, ‘hmm, how can I use that?’ Google Reader inspired me to ask some of our staffers to start creating "what I'm reading" headline lists that we surface on their blogs. Cover it Live gave us a new way to run conversations online. Twitter's been a great addition to the tool kit—we're using it to surface a running narrative of what's happening now across the city by creating a combined Twitter feed from the Tweets of 15 or so local agencies and leaders. I love to run through the winners of the Webby Awards and the SND online awards every year, there are always great inspirations there. The Guardian and The Sydney Morning Herald have always been two favorite sites to look to for innovations and inspiration. The New York Times is incredible of course, and I love El Pais.
Q: Much has been made of your linking to Seattle's main non-newspaper sites and perhaps following a strategy of becoming a central point of regional aggregation. How central to your strategy and operation will linking out be and how have those sites responded to the move?
Our mission is to be the best source of news in information in the Northwest—to put together the best mix of content for our readers. We'll do this by producing lots of original content, but we'll also point offsite to great content by other publishers. Refusing to tell readers about stories we didn't write feels kind of old school to me. We know what our readers are interested in. Why not put together the best mix, regardless of where the stories came from, and who wrote them—so long as the sources are credible, of course. Linking to other credible content of interest will make us more useful to our readers.
Q: If PI is a regional aggregator, why are there no links to Times stories specifically and to Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, The Stranger. Are you defining linking as all but competitive media?
We're linking to all credible sources -- if you're not seeing it there right now, that just means it's not in the mix at the moment. That doesn't mean we're not linking to them. In fact, we linked to The Stranger the very first day we started doing this.
Q: How do you compete with a direct (newspaper) competitor, The Seattle Times, which now will have 10X the staff resources? We’re going to focus on what readers are telling us they want and on what makes seattlepi.com essential and unique—within the context of our local news mission, of course. We’ve been successful thus far by paying close attention to our readers and will continue our “survival of the fittest” attitude about content that isn’t working.
We have partner content from TV Guide.com, business publisher Xconomy.com, and starting today, a lot of great new content from Hearst magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, Marie Claire, Popular Mechanics and Redbook. We'll continue to develop partnerships like these as we go to create the best possible mix of news, information and entertainment. As I already mentioned, we're putting together a more useful home page that points you to the best mix of news, regardless of who wrote it. We're going to have a great assortment local leaders joining seattlepi.com as columnists. We've got dozens of folks ready to write for us now, and hope to keep expanding.
We have a collection of more than 150 reader bloggers, sharing their passions and stories. We've got one of the best video game reviewers going blogging for us, and wonderful people writing about everything from politics to cooking to dating to living with cancer.
Q: How traditionally story-driven and how blog-driven will the site's content be?
We'll still write stories, of course. We'll also write a lot of briefs and quick updates. Being online-only means we won't always have to write a full story when there's an update—instead we can point readers to previous coverage for the background. In the paper you can't do that.
We're going to be doing both, depending on what's appropriate for the subject/circumstances. Last night for example we live-blogged a school board meeting (in the blog tool) then wrote a story and published it as an article.
We'll focus our staff efforts where we have something unique and civically important to offer: coverage of government, spending, crime, and harder news in general. A recent survey of our readers—and traffic patterns on seattlepi.com—tell us that readers are most interested in breaking news and hard news stories. They’re also interested in both news and feature photo galleries. The ‘daily news of the world in photos’ gallery is one of the most popular features on seattlepi.com.
Q: What’s the breakdown of the size and job types of your new staff, editorial, technology and otherwise?
We don't have reporters, editors or producers—everyone will do and be everything: everyone will write, edit, take photos and shoot video, produce multimedia and curate the home page. We have folks assigned to cover all of the beats that our readers care most about: politics, city hall, transportation, real estate and development, crime, education, sports, business news and so on. We're lucky to have strong P-I voices staying with us as well, including political columnist Joel Connelly and two-time Pulitzer-winning cartoonist David Horsey. Our popular sports columnists Jim Moore and Art Thiel will both continue to write for us twice a week.
Q: Right now, it looks like the P-I has 4 million uniques, 38 million page views and about 12 minutes time on site monthly, fairly parallel to The Seattle Times. What do you think those numbers will look like in a year?
Our internal Omniture numbers indicate we have a bit more than 4 million unique users per month, and serve between 45 and 50 million page views per month. We're hoping to retain and grow these numbers.
Q: What's on your 30-day list, on your 180-day list?
Iterate, invent, create more partnerships, launch a lot of great new features. We'll listen to the reader to see what they're liking and not liking, and try to find ways to improve as we go. Experiment a lot, fail fast.
More Content Bridges coverage of the new Seattle news war, here