PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Herald-Citizen new website in Cookeville, Tennessee, went live recently with a Creative Circle Media Solutions redesign that brings together the best of the newspaper and the best of web.
“Everybody who has seen it loves it,” said Don Foy, technology specialist at the newspaper in Cookeville, Tennessee.
And that was a good thing, because the news site, owned by Walls Newspapers Consultants, was launching a new pay wall as well. The newspaper has 7,000 print subscribers and gets about 550,000 to 600,000 unique page visits a month. Now, after five stories, viewers will be invited to subscribe so they can access more content.
The Herald-Citizen initially approached Creative Circle for its paywallQ software, but quickly learned that it could streamline the functionality of its website and make it more modern and appealing to readers, too.
Creative Circle offers paywallQ as a stand-alone product, and that’s why the Walls Newspaper group contacted Creative Circle, said vice president for technology Bryan Bunch. But then the company learned it could also get a redesign with a “more modern newspaper-centric website,” he said, and that sealed the deal.
Website analytics were pointing toward more mobile readers, so “it was important for us to have a clean and responsive feel to the mobile sites,” Bunch said.
“The first time I saw what they put together, it blew me away,” Foy said. “It was a newspaper, but it was the web. These guys speak newspaper really well.”
For readers, the site is easier to navigate, with better photo display and bigger headlines. “Before, it just looked cluttered,” Foy said.
The previous platform provided responsive design using a Joomla platform, but this is better, Foy said. “Somewhere between 40 percent and 50 percent of the traffic is mobile,” he said.
Bunch agreed. “I like the speed and just the look and feel of the site.”
It’s a breeze to post news when it happens, thanks to a content management system built into Creative Circle’s software that understands how to integrate with many print production systems. In the case of the Herald-Citizen, that front-end system was NewsEditIQ. Creative Circle implemented an automatic ingestion system so that stories in that system can be flagged to be sent to the web, and in minutes, they are queued up to be headlined and categorized for the web.
“I’m pretty particular,” Foy said. “For them to get a glowing review from me, that’s not easy.”
The redesign allowed the Herald-Citizen to improve other niggling problems with its branding and design – specifically the branding color in the paper’s masthead. “The color wasn’t reproduced the way I liked it on the previous site,” Foy said. “Blue is a good color, and people like blue. (Now) it looks exactly like the blue I wanted.”
The site is much more flexible than its predecessor, too. Creative Circle’s CMS was engineered to better reflect the news of the day, so editors can quickly set up landing pages to display more or fewer items or to showcase a big photo. “It’s very easy,” Foy said. “We’re not web people. We’re newspaper people. Because this site was put together by newspaper people, they know how to make it easy for non-technical people to make it look good.”
Training is a huge component of Creative Circle redesigns, but the built-in automation meant minimal training – and more time for content and design.
The enhanced photo display was one of the nicest surprises, Foy added. “Whatever magical things they have done, the big pictures are the best part.”
Walls also tapped Creative Circle to launch new sites for The Cleveland Banner in Cleveland, Tenn., which is also live on Creative Circle’s CMS now, and the Mountain Eagle in Jasper, Ala., which will launch early in 2016.