Joyce Terhaar

The Bee changes with the digital world

Nathaniel Levine, news editor and director of graphics for The Sacramento Bee, inspects proofs of the redesigned newspaper before publication on Monday.
Nathaniel Levine, news editor and director of graphics for The Sacramento Bee, inspects proofs of the redesigned newspaper before publication on Monday. mmorris@sacbee.com

In the 1800s, it was the phonograph. The electric record player was introduced in 1920s. Eight-track tapes came along in 1960s. By the time I was listening to music, it was vinyl records or cassettes. For my kids, it first was iPods and CDs.

Now we have music-streaming sites like Pandora and Spotify.

Technological innovation also has dramatically changed how we consume movies, television and other media. And even as newspaper companies continue to deliver news on paper to a steadfast audience, technology has enabled us to provide fast and creative news-delivery online and via mobile devices.

Changes to The Sacramento Bee launched last Tuesday were a multiplatform play. We are continuing to publish a printed newspaper because many readers still want one (1.3 million readers last month). But we also adjusted what we print in each of our four platforms to better reflect the change in how people are consuming news.

Our print deadlines are earlier each evening as we now are putting late news online. We moved some statistical information (including sports) to digital from print. That’s the business strategy we’ve developed to ensure we transform with the times, and to keep up with changing reader habits.

Last September The American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published a national survey showing that “most Americans of all ages are now cross-platform, multi-source news consumers.”

We discovered that as well in our own surveys and conversations with readers.

Yet “most” does not mean “all.” This week’s launch brought home the vital role the paper plays in many lives. It is part of our readers’ daily routines, whether to scan the news, do the crossword, or read every word from front to back.

Reader Roy Proud emailed me to say he was shocked by the changes to our sports coverage. “Baseball is my favorite sport and I love to scan the box scores, all of the games, on one page without having to go to the computer and scroll around.” Because he lives in an area that gets the papers first off our presses, Proud’s paper doesn’t have the “Replay” feature designed to quickly wrap up games or late sports news. He’s signed up for the Sports Night email but told me he still wants more. All the box scores can be found in our e-Edition, on one page as they used to be in print.

Reader Connie Clark, who called herself an “old school graphic designer,” was most concerned with parts of the new design, including “the over use of italics and all caps. Both are meant to add emphasis and were never meant as a standard design feature.” We are reviewing several aspects of our design.

Raymond Puckett emailed to tell us “frankly I can’t decide if I like the ‘new’ Bee or the ‘old’ Bee so I’ve adopted the attitude of: the Sacramento Bee just (please) keep it coming!” A lifelong reader of the baseball box scores, he said he’s now turning to our online coverage to get them. Even with the changes, he told me late Friday that reading The Bee is a highlight of his retirement.

We don’t disrupt our readers’ routines lightly; we know it’s disappointing to lose something that brings satisfaction or even joy. The feedback we’ve received from a couple of thousand readers so far has largely been about changes to print. We already are working on some suggestions, such as the type size in our sports agate and weather report. At the request of readers we alphabetized the paid obituaries. We are monitoring other comments, watching for common themes. (You still can comment, at sacbee.com/newsallday.) Where we can, we’ll make adjustments, but as a mass medium, we go into these decisions knowing we can’t please everyone and we must continue to transform our business.

1.3 million Bee print readers last month

Our online readers, or those who read us multiple ways, have reacted positively to our update. Those expecting constant change and innovation at Sacbee.com or on our mobile apps will be pleased to know we have several waves of improvements planned, especially around our mobile products. As we roll out improvements, we also sometimes experience temporary glitches. For instance, I had to delete my iPhone app and iPad app before the new version would install last week (try that if you had trouble as well). And those reading stories in the app likely noticed what appeared to be garbled text in some places as the app did not “read” pullout highlights that looked great at Sacbee.com. We’re fixing that as well.

Ahead of our launch, we introduced the Sports Night newsletter in early April to deliver to email inboxes the latest in game coverage and stats. We also added Sports Extra to our e-Edition so that box scores and other information can be easily accessed there. We are taking another look at all the MLB, NFL and NBA statistics we carry at Sacbee.com to see if we can improve the design. And we’re regularly providing video of favorite athletes.

Print is a powerful medium for showcasing deeper reporting and documentary photography. It also is a convenient way to package the best of the news though it doesn’t compete with online speed for breaking news. We at The Bee are proud we continue to offer news in print.

Digital is a powerful breaking-news medium, especially when our reporters are first tweeting a news tip and then posting the full report at Sacbee.com. It allows us to provide interesting databases that are fun to peruse. Video and photo galleries make news packages experiential. It creates deeper connections as readers can offer their own comments on the news or email reporters directly. We’re excited to be on a path of constant innovation online.

On each of our platforms, we remain committed to our mission to keep an eye on people in power and to help our readers connect with their community.

As our launch this week shows, we are just as committed to ensuring we stay around for another 158 years.

Joyce Terhaar: @jterhaar

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