by Cathy Resmer
It looks like the Burlington Free Press only got one comment posted on their welcome home soldiers web page. That's as of 8:45 am Tuesday. They took the notice off the front page of their website, too. I couldn't find the link from the main page. It wasn't even in the most hyped story on thehome page, Adam Silverman's "Friday Guard homecoming spreadsanticipation across Vermont." It's like they've given up on the idea. I had to go digging for the page in my previous post.
It's only been a few days now, but I think it's interesting that the BFP launched this feature and now it's just sort of sitting there. We know that even in techno-phobic Vermont people will use a newspaper's website in this way. The Rutland Herald/Times Argus has an active welcome home forum on their site. Surely Burlington Free Press readers are more likely to have Internet access — especially broadband — than their Southern and Central Vermont neighbors. Why wouldn't they use this same feature on the BFP site?
A few thoughts:
Perhaps Chittenden County residents don't really support the troops? Hmm.
Maybe the BFP's website is too cluttered and ad-centric, as opposed to the RH/TA's clean design that includes lots of white space. Maybe people don't want to email their messages, they'd rather post them on user-friendly comment forms instead. That's probably part of it.
Or maybe BFP readers aren't used to seeing interactive features on their website. The RH/TA has been investing in interactivity for over a year. The TA hosts three different staff blogs — the RH links to two of those. Both papers have experimented with Reader Roundtables and reader forums, with mixed success. Point is, they've been actively cultivating online participants. The BFP needs to do more of that if they want their innovations to take off.
I'm guessing BFP's online editor Allison Lazarz is thinking that, too, but the bigger the paper, the harder it is to adapt.
UPDATE: Just saw that the BFP has put up another notice plugging the welcome home page on their homepage again. The time stamp says it was there at 6 am, but I swear it wasn't there earlier this morning, or yesterday. But it's back now! Maybe somebody's reading my blog...?
UPDATE II: Or maybe I just give myself too much credit. Meghan the Seven Days Calendar Editor points out that the BFP put an invite to send messages on the front page of the paper today. Huh. I read the front page this morning and didn't even see it.