Our Opinion: We need your help to improve our new podcast
People consume the news in different ways.
You might be reading this editorial on page A5 of this newspaper. On the right-hand side of the page, there's a staff box listing all the people who worked to bring you this product. There's an editorial cartoon on the page, too, and a couple of submitted commentaries.
Or maybe you're reading this editorial on your computer. Our editorials are always at the top of the opinion page on our websites, fgnewstimes.com and hillsboronewstimes.com, every Wednesday.
Or maybe you're one of the growing number of readers who is scrolling through this editorial on your smartphone or tablet. We made the move to optimize our website for mobile users a couple of years ago, and more improvements are on the way.
But maybe you don't have time to read the news. We've got you covered there, too.
Last week, we launched a news product that we're very excited about. It's the official News-Times Podcast. And next week, we will begin a second new podcast called the Business of Washington County that focuses on new, novel and trending businesses and business-related issues in western Washington County.
If you subscribe to one of our weekly email newsletters, you'll receive a message each week letting you know when the latest podcasts are live. Or, watch our social media feeds for more information.
We'll freely admit, we're still working through the format. None of us are professional podcasters or radio veterans. We're figuring out the best way to distribute the podcast so it's easy for people to find, click and listen.
All of that will come in time. What we want to know is what you think.
Here's a rundown of our thinking in putting together this first podcast:
n Keep it short. Some podcasts are practically feature-length. That's a big time commitment, both for us as amateur podcasters and you as consumers. So our thinking is to keep the News-Times Podcast bite-sized — something you can listen to while you're prepping food in the kitchen, or riding the bus, or even taking a shower. Our first podcast clocks in at 7 minutes, 24 seconds. They will vary in length, but we're targeting that five- to 10-minute window. But is that the right length? How many of our readers would listen to a longer podcast? Are there readers for whom 10 minutes is too long? Those are the kind of things we want to learn.
n Focus on the classics. For the News-Times' readers in Forest Grove, the small-town police log is one of our most popular features. For readers in Hillsboro, the county seat's vibrant arts and entertainment scene draws much of our coverage. For many of our readers in both editions of the paper, high school sports — and in the summer, the Hillsboro Hops — are a major draw, and something we frequently hear about. Our inaugural podcast includes some of the most notable Forest Grove police log entries, a few upcoming events and the latest in sports news. But what else do our fans want to hear in our podcast? Are we focusing on the right topics? How can we reach a broad audience and provide them all with news that matters to them in a weekly podcast?
n Use stories from the News-Times. It's the paper we've been publishing continuously since 1886, after all. Our first podcast drew from pieces published either in the print newspaper or on our websites, providing a summary of some of what was in the paper. In essence, we're reading what we wrote so that you don't have to. In the future, though, would readers like to listen to "extra" content? What sorts of additions make sense — interviews, outtakes, explainers? Are people interested in learning more about how we gather and report the news, or is their interest only in the finished product?
n Follow the weekly model. We publish the News-Times every Wednesday, and our podcast will come out the day after each paper, on Thursday. Our surveys show that a weekly newspaper model is a good fit for our community, and it's the model we've been using since the 19th century. But is it the right model for our podcast? Would readers be interested in a twice-weekly podcast? Or is a weekly podcast too frequent, running the risk of getting stale?
n Two editions, one podcast. We published the Hillsboro Tribune weekly from late 2012 until last month, when we began offering a Hillsboro edition of the News-Times. The paper still contains exclusive content geared toward our thousands of Hillsboro subscribers, but the change on the nameplate reflected an organizational shift for us. The News-Times has been covering western Washington County for generations and remains one of the best-read weekly papers in Oregon. That's the brand we wanted going forward in Hillsboro, and it's the brand we want for our podcast. But is one podcast too few to cover Forest Grove, Hillsboro and the smaller communities in western Washington County? For that matter, are we thinking too small for an editorial staff that also contributes to our sister paper, The Times of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin & Sherwood, which covers the rest of Washington County? Or are we on the right track with a podcast that covers western Washington County — a model that could potentially be used for podcasts that cover east and/or south Washington County?
We're experimenting here, and we need your help to decide what to do and what not to do as we embark on our podcasting adventure. If you have feedback for our podcast, please contact News-Times publisher Nikki DeBuse.
In the meantime, we hope you'll listen to our weekly Thursday podcasts, which you can find on Soundcloud and on our websites at fgnewstimes.com and hillsboronewstimes.com, as well as in our email newsletters and in our social media feeds. Share, enjoy and please excuse our dust.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.