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Jeremy Boyer: Newspapers constantly look to tweak the product

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On the days when I need to heat up my lunch and am waiting for the microwave oven to do its job, I often find myself staring in amazement at a copy of a framed 1873 page from a predecessor paper, the Auburn Daily Advertiser.

The front page has eight columns of content. The left two columns are devoted to news reports, one locally focused and one with dispatches from around the globe. The rest is filled by dozens of advertisements, mostly text, hawking all kinds of products: steam engines, stoves, German lessons, "millinery goods," seltzer, wallpaper and many more items.

In short, it looks nothing like the pages of today's newspapers.

How we got from the look of that page nearly 150 years ago to today would be a fascinating anthropological study. But I'm confident that one big driver of the years of changes is a continuous quest to make our products better.

Newspapers and newspaper websites are must evolve. We try every day to provide articles, photos and videos that our readers will want to see, and we aim to do it through a convenient and clear format. Feedback and a lot of trial and error result in frequent adjustments to the way we go about things.

That brings me to a few changes we've made with content and presentation in recent weeks. They're all aimed at doing things a little better.

One is the launch of a new look for our nation/world page in the print edition. Although our mission is to be, first and foremost, a provider of local news and information, we know that many readers also want us to give them a rundown of the biggest stories beyond our market. The new nation/world page format attempts to provide a more engaging design while also including a wider variety of stories. Prior to making this change last week, our nation/world page would typically have two to four stories. Now we have a design that still does that, while also finding room for briefs or roundups that bring the total number of topics covered up to about 10 each day.

A change in local content that started in recent days is a tweak to our "Look Back" feature in the Lake Life section. For several years, this glimpse back at what was in our paper on different dates in history included images on Sundays only. It turns out, that's by far the most popular day of the week for the "Look Back," so we've now tweaked the presentation to have a photo every day.

A final change came about as a result of a reallocation of staff time. At the start of the year, facing a shortage in available employee hours, we stopped collecting and publishing enterprise listings from the Cayuga County Clerk's Office. That content was taking a considerable amount of time to gather and type up for publication. Now we've figured out a way to bring back enterprise listings that pertain to business entities, and they will be featured about once per week, on our records page in print and the records section online.

Executive editor Jeremy Boyer’s column appears Thursdays in The Citizen and he can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer


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