In the interest of not wasting your valuable time I am going to warn you in advance that this article contains absolutely nothing of substance. The Beaver Countian has reached something of a milestone and I’m going to be shamelessly bragging about it for several paragraphs. You should feel free to hit the back button on your browser now — I know I would if I did not actually run this site.
About a year ago, almost to the day, I was pulling into my parent’s driveway early one morning and was forced to stop my car and get out to pick up a plastic-wrapped newspaper that was laying in the middle of it. My grandfather has been getting the paper delivered since long before I was born, and now that he has moved in with my parents the small pile of murdered trees finds its way to their house each day (as tempting as it is some mornings to simply run over the paper, my grandfather enjoys reading it and I respect him too much to spin my tires on part of his daily routine).
I bent over and picked up the paper, finished pulling into the driveway, and parked my car for a visit. I gave the paper a toss, hitting the base of the outside door that leads into an addition my parents had built for my grandparents. That was when I got to thinking about how cool it would be to have someone toss a copy of the Beaver Countian at everyone’s door each morning.
Yes, I admit I had come down with a bad case “old media” envy in that moment.
Being a “new media” outlet, the Beaver Countian already had “new media” ways of distributing the news articles it produced. Stories are published on a website before getting posted to Facebook, Google+ (if you don’t know what that is don’t worry, no one else does either), and sent out via Twitter, where they are then “liked,” commented on, and shared with others.
Although the Beaver Countian’s social media presence was (and still is) the largest of any media outlet in Beaver County, the delivery process still felt ad hoc to me; nothing like having a delivery driver toss a copy in your driveway for a morning read.
Later that evening I decided to finally make the leap and began implementing ways to blast our news on a large scale in a more direct way.
I upgraded some servers, licensed some commercially available software, and started programming custom interfaces to package it all together for the Beaver Countian’s readers (I’m a nerd like that). We continued the distribution of news over Facebook (where we have over 25,000 followers), Google+, and Twitter, but a delivery network of text message updates and now browser notifications had begun en masse.
Some of the technology behind it all is in part still fairly new, but the end result is easy to understand: For about a year now, the Beaver Countian has been making people’s smartphones and tablets ding when new news is published.
The second we hit “submit” on an article for publication to our site, text messages begin flowing out through our SMS gateways, notifications explode through our web push API, and phones throughout Beaver County and beyond start ding-a-dinging.
Now for the bragging part: We make a lot of smartphones and tablets ding. As of this week about 10,000 people have signed up for instant notifications from the Beaver Countian. We deliver notices of new articles to everyone in about 10 seconds.
There is no more waiting for people to read emails or log into Facebook accounts or scroll through Twitter feeds, readers are now getting news from the Beaver Countian within seconds of it being posted.
Publication has become an event.
Publishing news online to the masses is something of a surreal experience. Server statistics tell you how many people are reading what you have written, but those nameless, faceless, individuals are “out there” somewhere. It is often hard to envision the reality that in living rooms, coffee shops, and offices, people are sitting around reading.
I have on more than one occasion over the past year watched what I call the “Beaver Countian Effect” in action — being out in busy public places in the county when publishing an article. It is pretty incredible to hear the ding-a-dings around you and watch strangers start reaching into their pants and purses in unison, pulling out their phones to read the latest. Publishing an article during a community event like a fair or car cruise is especially enlightening — the server statistics become living people and the impact can be seen physically “in the real world.”
If those who post comments on the Beaver Countian ever wonder if those in power ever read what they write, try walking down the hallways of the courthouse when an article is being published — ding-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding!
While the newspaper has been forcing people to bend over to gather its news, the Beaver Countian has now gotten people to reach into their pants to see what’s up.
No more “old media” envy for me.