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'V-3' looms: changes ahead for HSO web site

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news River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Have you noticed how internet jargon, like the Web itself, has crept into every aspect of our lives?

We chat about the "blogosphere," refer to one respective "domain" or another like we'd offer someone driving directions and speak of "cookies" as a normal part of life.

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Around this newspaper office, the label "V-3" has become synonymous with the next wave of anxiety for those of us who lived through the transition from typewriter-to-word processor and black and white film to digital still, video and sound files.

"V-3" or the next version of the Star-Observer Web site, will make its debut here June 10.

For our readers, it should be like moving from a tar paper shack to a condominium. You may initially struggle with a lack of familiarity and you'll be required to re-log (more jargon) with our servers so they recognize your computer.

If you have time between now and then, go on-line and select the "Member Center" choice toward the bottom of the left menu bar on the www.hudsonstarobserver.com site. If you recall your password, enter it, along with your e-mail address and see that it's accurate. If you've forgotten your log-in or share the computer with another family member, punch in the household e-mail address and we'll send it to you.

You'll absolutely need it view our Web site or that of any other Rivertown Group newspaper after June 10.

So why the shift to version three? "Keeping up with the Joneses," you might say.

The lay-out and navigation is easier and more logical, and it allows us to share more stories and features with prominence. Photographs will be larger. Rather than a long, narrow, existing format that forces users to scroll through all offerings to see what's new, V.3 allows users to readily scan the entire site visually or using our powerful Omnisearch tool.

Breaking news will be displayed at the top of the page along with the time it was posted. Two to five featured stories and an associated photo will automatically display at the top of column one. Headlines from various stories in popular categories like local news, sports, obituaries and upcoming events will be easy to find without scrolling the page.

For advertisers, the new "build" mimics the functionality we've come to know with Google. Because each story we load to the site is tagged with keywords that correlate with its content ("Raiders" on sports results or "St. Croix" on a boating article, for example), a retailer can marry his or her offer to stories through an in-content ad that will appear every time a reader calls up that article.

Those same key words will enable visitors to use the contextual search capability to call up all stories we've ever done about the "Raiders" or "St. Croix."

Along with all that, the new site will offer some dramatic new ad opportunities like "peel" messages and skyscrapers, as well as the familiar leaderboards and tiles. And you can be sure to find the usual love-them or hate-them article comments, Area Voices blogs, polls and photo galleries on the redesigned site.

Our Forum Communications Co. brethren at places like Duluth (www.duluthnews.com), Willmar (www.wctrib.com) and Detroit Lakes (www.dl-online.com) rolled out the new format months ago and are loving it.

We know from our occasional experience of redesigning the printed newspaper that change is hard for some readers to accept. We're prepared to listen to your compliments and complaints.

Write or call anytime. If you read this far, I'll assume e-mail is a preferred form of communication. Write me at publish@rivertowns.net.

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