Blogging rule number one: don't start a blog if you can't keep up with it. So it is to our eternal embarrassment that the date of our previous post is May, 2006. Time is long past when we could blame that lapse on the summer vacation or a busy news day, so we won't even try.
However, we haven't been idle during our blogging layoff. Webmaking at thestar.com has continued apace, with some major additions in recent months and a lot of work in the background.
The most recent addition was the launch of Star P.M., a downloadable, printable afternoon PDF newspaper.
Star P.M. originated with the suggestion from two Star staffers that we bring back an afternoon edition of the Star to provide readers with an update on the news of the day as they head home from work. The dilemma was how to make and distribute such a thing in an age of high newsprint prices, soaring gas prices and urban gridlock. So we thought about moving electrons instead of atoms (to borrow an argument from MIT's Nicholas Negroponte) and put the printing in the hands (and at the discretion) of our readers. The result is a hybrid digital-print product, a compact PDF-based product that offers the display and layout of a newspaper and the flexibiliy of an electronic document, and designed to be printed on 8 1/2 x 11 paper for portability.
Response to Star P.M. has been positive from readers, who say they enjoy the convenient packaging of the day's news, the useful information on events, traffic and weather and diversions such as a crossword, Sudoku and horoscopes, and from advertisers who like the banner ad display and the ability to reach readers in the afternoon.
Some others haven't been so kind in their assessments, wondering what we're up to - why the back-to-the-future approach? Star P.M. is an attempt to reach readers in a new way and one that we could bring to market quickly. And that's a good thing, considering that between our decision to proceed and the launch of the product, two papers in the U.K. (while another has ceased publishing) and one in Spain launched their own afternoon PDF editions -- with another coming after our launch. It is not as ambitious as the New York Times-Sony experiment in "e-newspapers" but an experiment in the future of digital newspapers.
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You may also have noticed a greater emphasis on video on thestar.com. In August we added breaking news video from Associated Press on the major international news of the day, with up to a dozen video clips a day.
More importantly, we've assembled a multimedia team with an incredible depth of journalistic experience, consisting of photojournalists Bernard Weil and Chris So and reporter Scott Simmie. Weil, who has been a photographer for the Star for more than 20 years, got his feet wet, literally, by filing video reports from the fallout of Hurricane Katrina last year, and has continued in his new role by producing videos on the tactics of red carpet papparazzi and last week's unveiling of an Avro Arrow replica. The team will also be expanding our use of video in the field and in our bureaus around the world, to bring readers closer to the experiences of our reporters.
Increased use of video will be just one improvement in our next site-wide redesign, something we've been working on very hard for several months - the result of this work will be more dramatic use of photos, better coverage of breaking news, and a deeper, more useful site for news, information and entertainment.