The Chicago Tribune’s triblocal.com, the newspaper industry’s most successful hyper-local network, recently got a major upgrade from Creative Circle Media Solutions, which built the network and has supplied software, design and consulting support for the site since its inception more than three years ago.
“triblocal has been a great success for the Tribune and we’re pleased with our long relationship with The Tribune,” says Bill Ostendorf, CEO of Creative Circle and a strategic and design consultant to hundreds of media companies.
triblocal started with two “clusters” containing eight towns. Creative Circle now hosts sites for 91 towns throughout the Chicago suburbs for the Tribune. A staff of 31 at triblocal reverse publishes content from the web sites into 21 weekly, hyper-local print editions published in Thursday editions of the Tribune. Each print edition or “cluster” includes from 1-5 towns, depending on the size of the town.
“I really can’t believe more papers aren’t doing this,” says Ostendorf. “With dozens of companies entering virtually every market to set up town-based sites, this is a must for every newspaper.”
The recent upgrade allows triblocal.com editors to create a different layout for each of the 91 towns on the platform. They can vary the number of stories, size of photos, position of stories and the arrangement of key features so each town’s web site reflects the news of that town.
“One of the things that drives me crazy is that virtually all newspaper web sites look the same every day,” says Ostendorf. “That’s not appropriate for news sites. The news changes. Sometimes you have a great photo. Sometimes there is a big story. Sometimes the best thing you have is a soft feature. Our platform is the only one that allows editors to modify the entire layout of their site with the click of a button.”
triblocal.com editors now have dozens of combinations they can easily create by selecting different templates because the news in Barrington might be very different than the news in Joliet or Wheaton. The upgrade also included SEO improvements, better tagging and linking of related stories, faster page loads and searches and a host of other minor features.
“We can now supply self-service, town-based classifieds as well as text ads users can create that link to a page or another web site. Hyper-local sites require effective self-service advertising to succeed,” says Ostendorf. “Newspapers can’t afford to send ad sales reps out to sell these niche market web ads.”
Creative Circle is expecting to expand its self-service advertising offerings later this year.
Other new enhancements to the platform include the ability to map every story, alternative story layouts that emphasize different elements and tighter integration with social networking sites.
About Creative Circle Media Solutions
Creative Circle builds best-of-breed web software for media companies and has specialized in enabling user-generated content and revenue. Products include adQ: Intelligent classifieds, which is the only classified entry system that actually helps users write an effective ad, and communityQ, a leading citizen journalism solution, mediasiteQ, a full-featured CMS, directoryQ, tourismQ and Quickads.
The company has its roots in a 25-year history of satisfied consulting clients. The firm has helped more than 300 media companies on three continents, has led training in 40 countries, has redesigned more than 450 newspapers, magazines and niche products and designed more than 100 web sites.
Creative Circle (www.creativecirclemedia.com and www.adqic.com) is based in East Providence, R.I., and can be reached at 401-455-1555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.