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Editor’s notebook: New Missoulian, Ravalli Republic websites to launch this week

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The websites of the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic will have a new look and feel starting Tuesday.

The new design should be live by around 10:30 a.m. that day. The change will look more sleek and modern, a pivot from the old layout which featured more traditional newspaper-style elements.

Readers will notice that visually engaging multimedia content, such as photos, galleries and video, is front and center throughout the new sites.

The websites will look different, but the way the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic newsrooms operate them will remain the same. We are digital-first operations, meaning we post breaking news online as soon as possible to our websites, Facebook, Twitter and your mobile devices. Then we update that news as often as necessary and prepare it for the next print edition.

One important operational change will be what you see at the top of the new websites. Our editors will still choose what we feel are the most newsworthy local, state and regional stories for you, with national stuff farther down the homepage. Sophisticated technology will arrange those stories for you based on the kind of content you typically prefer to read, while also introducing you to stories you maybe wouldn’t normally consider clicking on. You will see only the top stories that you have NOT previously viewed (previously viewed stories will still be available elsewhere on the websites).

The goal is to create a more personalized presentation of the news — a trend that the news industry has been moving towards for some time. Machine learning will remember the stories or videos you click on and serve new content offerings with each site visit.

Digital evolution

This is a company-wide initiative by Lee Enterprises to propel us further into the digital age. John Humenik, our vice president for news, said the goal is to create a best-in-class experience.

“Providing our digital subscribers and users with a rich multimedia experience ensures they can get even closer to the local news and information that matters most to them,” Humenik said.

As with all new technology, there may be glitches — I’ve been involved in digital journalism for more than 25 years, and I’ve never seen a launch without some.

However, my fellow editors at other Lee newspapers say their new website launches have been relatively painless and smooth.

Initial feedback from a focus group was positive: “The site is colorful, modern, attractive, ‘fancier’ and engaging … It appears to be easy to navigate.”

If you encounter a problem after the launch, report it at go.missoulian.com/website or go.ravallirepublic.com/website.

We are not changing the registration system — keep using your current logins and passwords for your digital subscriptions.

Supporting local journalism

Speaking of digital subscriptions, thanks to the many thousands of you who support our local journalism in Missoula and Ravalli County.

While print isn’t going away anytime soon, our digital subscribers now outnumber our print readers. It’s a sign of the times — more people are reading us than ever before, and most of those are online.

It used to be that newspaper websites were an afterthought, a place to dump stories at the end of the day. Now they are the primary outlet for the majority of our readers — yet another reason for the company to invest in its digital technology.

We have introductory digital subscriptions that start as little as $1 for the first six months. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you get unlimited access to the daily news produced by our hardworking local reporters, photographers and editors, who live in our communities and care deeply about the product they deliver to your screens.

So if you care about supporting quality local journalism, scroll to the bottom of your homepage and click “subscribe.” You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Van Nostrand is executive editor of the Missoulian. Reach him at jimvan@missoulian.com

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