181128_CO_news_Website mockup.jpg

A mockup using archival content shows a preliminary version of the new chinookobserver.com.

Check it out for unique local news, sports, weather, photos, video

In olden times — say 30 or 50 years ago — a community newspaper like the Chinook Observer might make a big announcement about a new printing press. Nowadays, physical printing is concentrated in fewer and fewer locations — the Observer and a dozen other nearby papers are all printed at The Daily Astorian, for instance. Instead of a shiny new press, this Thursday the Observer is launching a new and improved online edition.

The Observer is fortunate in producing a profitable print edition packed with news, local advertising and ad fliers. This will continue — we hope for many years to come.

More and more readers access news and advertising via computers, tablets and smart phones. The Observer has offered our content online for nearly 20 years. Initially, traffic on chinookobserver.com relied on being promoted in our print editions. In recent times, as is true of the news business as a whole, much of our web traffic is driven by Facebook. “Liking” the Observer on Facebook provides readers with a curated selection of top stories, breaking news/weather and links to popular content such as photos, videos and links created by local residents. At present, in a county with 9,500 homes, nearly 8,000 people follow us on Facebook — a growth rate of around 20 percent a year.

Much of the content we promote via Facebook is free to everyone. Last week, there were around 15,000 views of our free videos and other coverage of a Long Beach apartment fire, for example. No-charge winter weather alerts sometimes draw tens of thousands of views by locals who need to know what’s coming, and by non-residents who get a vicarious thrill from seeing whatever is about to smash into the coast.

When it comes to major stories from our weekly edition, all subscribers can choose whether to access them in print, online or both. Especially in the past couple years, we’ve seen a big increase in digital-only subscriptions, which save on the cost of postage and provide other advantages, such as immediate access to our extensive online archives. A free “app” makes our website and custom e-editions even more user-friendly, while also providing breaking-news alerts.

Non-subscribers clicking on Facebook links or directly on our website eventually hit a “pay wall,” prompting them to subscribe for full access. For $35 a year — 67 cents an issue compared to $2 off the rack — you can read years of award-winning coverage to your heart’s content. (We’re closing in on 400 statewide honors since 2000, including the current Newspaper Community Service Award.) Call 800-643-3703 to subscribe.

The website we are phasing out later this week has been a source of some frustration to us and others in our small family-owned publishing company. So we’re making a switch this week to a new web-hosting service that will give us much-enhanced design flexibility. We’ll be able to post news much more quickly. Our new website will now permit reporters and photographers to post breaking stories, photos and videos directly from the location of breaking-news events.

In this incredibly scenic and newsy place, chinookobserver.com will now be able to provide much better photo galleries. Our outstanding photographers — including Society of Professional Journalists 2018 photo portfolio winner Natalie St. John, SPJ 2018 breaking news photo winner Luke Whittaker, and amazing photo freelancer Damian Mulinix.

Our many subscribers who value the printed version of the Chinook Observer as a uniquely local news source and badge of membership in our coastal communities will see little if any visual difference in the newspaper. All readers, whether they prize digital or newsprint, will continue to be our first priority. Our new website, by providing us with added incentives to produce immediate stories and images, will be reflected in timely printed content, updated with the latest information available before the press rolls.

We expect the roll-out for our new website to be trouble free, but please bear with us if there are any little kinks. It represents a huge transition and improvement that will pay off in the form of even better news, sports, weather and other content for years to come.

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