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Last modified: January 15. 2002 5:27PM

Quoted
"Publicus allows us to focus on what we are good at as a newspaper - which is advertising, news and information."
-- Mark Woodruff
Director of Digital Media Operations
ONLINE PRODUCTION
SAXoTECH helps The Blade expand online services
Publicus lets newspaper managers build a better Web site


New Media Staff The entire New Media Department of The Blade. Publicus allows these five people to easily build a rich, interactive Web site that is comparable to products created by much larger organizations.
TOLEDO, Ohio -- At a time when many publishers are struggling to find a way to make their new media operations profitable, The Blade, in Toledo, Ohio, is using the Publicus Online Publishing to build a successful World Wide Web site.

With Publicus, The Blade dramatically improved the quality of their Web site, while keeping their staffing and maintenance costs low.

The problem
Several years after The Blade went live with its first site on the World Wide Web (www.toledoblade.com), managers of the site became unsatisfied with the software they were using. To compete against a new breed of competitors the staff realized it needed a solution that could catapult the site into a new era.

"We were publishing straight HTML pages, which limited our development," said Mark Woodruff, director of digital media operations. "It made it hard for us to have consistent navigation and to roll out new products and services."

On a daily basis, they were managing HTML files, but they wanted to "get into the business of managing content," said Woodruff.

In addition, the site's administrators were frustrated by the "cumbersome" nature of the old system they were using. "It had too many moving parts, made by too many vendors," said Kevin Merrill, online editor. "It became more and more difficult to train users and manage daily updates."

The Blade was also hoping to integrate a host of new services - like TV and movie listings, directories, forums, maps, etc. - within their own site, rather than through co-branded services with other Web sites.

"Linking off to someone else's site prevented us from controlling the look and feel and the availability of that content," said Merrill.

The search for a solution
They knew they needed to improve the content and features of the site, but they were not allowed to increase the number of full-time employees working in the new media division. Because of this, they would not be able to develop the Web site functionality internally, so they had to look for outside help.

According to Merrill, The Blade began searching for a new Internet publishing solution in early 2000. "We were looking for something that would allow us to make changes to the site much faster," said Merrill.

He said they were judging all the vendors based on three criteria:

  • Cost: The price of the solution.
  • Ease of use: How difficult it was to use the solution and manage the new site
  • Time to market: The estimated time it would take to get the new site live

By August 2000, The Blade had signed a contract with SAXoTECH to be the first the North American newspaper using Publicus.

Why SAXoTECH?
"Publicus offered us a complete solution," said Woodruff. "It solved many of the problems we had. And, as a small staff, we liked the idea of dealing with one company that could address our issues."

Merrill said that the Publicus user interface also impressed him. "It's something I have open on my screen all day long," he said. "It's very clean, very modern. I can manage every part of the site in one user interface."

And the fact that the interface is entirely Web browser-based is a big advantage.

"I can log on and work on the site from anywhere in the world," said Merrill. "There's very little proprietary software that I have to work with on a daily basis. I know it's there in the background - but that's its technological advantage. The general user doesn't need to know about the technology."

Results so far
The Blade went live with their new Publicus site in October 2000. Since that time, they have seen a steady increase in all site statistics. For example:

  • Total unique visitors are up 37 percent
  • Year-to-year page views have increased by 40 percent

"More readers are visiting the site, and they are visiting more often," said Woodruff. "There is a great deal more content available, and enhanced features by which our readers can interact with that content."

"People like the site more," said Merrill. "It's easier for us to put more content out there, and that enhances the users' experience."

But, Woodruff says, this increase in functionality did not negatively impact their bottom line.

"We are kind of to the point where the site is on auto-pilot," said Merrill. "I spend less time worrying about software. I really do."

"We have a very automated site. We have not had to add any staff. Publicus was key," said Woodruff. "Publicus allows us to focus on revenue generation, from a business perspective; and on localized content and information, from an editorial perspective."

"Publicus allows us to focus on what we are good at as a newspaper - which is advertising, news and information," said Woodruff.


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