The Daily Gazette announced Wednesday that it will be redesigning its website to provide both improved content and an easier, more enjoyable experience for readers.
The independently owned media company has contracted with Overit, a digital marketing agency based in Albany, to undertake the major project.
The overhaul — which will not just redesign dailygazette.com but fundamentally rethink the model newspapers typically use to present digital content — is now in the early stages of planning and research and is expected to take much of the rest of this year.
Gazette Publisher John DeAugustine said the redesign will not be visible to readers as it takes shape — dailygazette.com will remain accessible in its current format. The switchover will not happen until the redesign is tested and ready, but when it happens it will be seamless and instantaneous.
He said Wednesday’s announcement is exciting and significant, both for the newspaper and its readers and advertisers.
“To The Daily Gazette Company, it’s not just storytelling, it’s curating and creating content that’s important to all the people in Schenectady,” DeAugustine said. “We’re very fortunate to live in a time where there are so many ways to get that story out.”
The website design and technology The Gazette currently uses to present its news online cannot utilize all of those storytelling tools and technologies, he said.
Heather Graham, The Gazette’s digital director, has led the newspaper’s efforts to enhance its online presence. The changes will be sweeping — not just in how information is presented and how readers experience it, but in how it is generated, she explained.
“We’re moving to a new content management system that will allow our reporters to create and post content from inside or outside the office,” she said. “The new system is certainly going to be quick and nimble, internally and externally.”
The various types of content — stories, advertisements, photos, video, columns — will be more readily available and more easily viewed with less effort, she said, citing videos as one example: Currently on dailygazette.com, videos are off in a corner of the homepage designated for multimedia content. That will be gone when the redesign is unveiled, Graham said — the user experience will be enhanced even as it is simplified and streamlined, and all types of content will be presented more cohesively, rather than as a segment of the larger package.
Overit CEO Dan Dinsmore said users will notice the changes immediately, as the new website will be a substantial departure from The Gazette’s current online product, and from the websites operated by most of the newspaper industry.
“Ninety percent of newspaper websites are boxed, and have a particular format to them,” he said — a header, a navigation bar, a stack of articles.
The goal with the new dailygazette.com is to present information in a more easily accessible format, and Overit is starting from scratch to create a new model for this.
“We’re hoping to raise the bar not only for The Daily Gazette but compete on the national and international level for newspaper websites,” said Dinsmore, a Niskayuna native who started Overit in 1993.
Of equal consideration, he said, will be continuing The Gazette’s 122-year-long role as the source of local news for Schenectady and surrounding communities — presenting quality content, not just easily accessible and good-looking content.
“We’re really concentrating on the user experience,” he said, “but at the end of the day, content is everything.
“We do have to stay true to The Daily Gazette’s brand and the audience we’re speaking to.”
Graham said Overit has the right team to make this happen.
“We went with Overit because we did a wide search and when we met with Overit, they really have a sense of innovation,” she said. “We don’t want to be just another newspaper website. We want to be innovators. We want to continue to deliver the highest quality independent news in the Capital Region but we also want to think beyond today, and how we can be delivering the best content with the best experience across multiple platforms. Overit understands that, has experience in that. They’re innovative.”
DeAugustine said: “I was particularly impressed with their depth of experience . . . the amount of research they did. They were extremely prepared when we met with them. I felt they completely understood the project.
“We’re also super happy that they’re local,” he said, adding that Overit’s proposal was chosen over others from across the nation and even a couple overseas — not because it was a local company but because it was the right fit.
DeAugustine noted that the redesign of The Gazette’s website follows a $2.3 million project to upgrade the equipment used to produce the printed edition of the newspaper.
“The printing press was a huge investment, one that the owners felt comfortable making, and it’s paying off now,” he said, with both a better printed newspaper and increased contract printing done for other companies.
Dinsmore said the redesign is in its earliest stages — Overit is researching what has worked well and what can be improved, settling on a broad direction to take, and deciding how to proceed with that.
“We’re in discovery phase, planning and research,” he said, explaining that specific details about the new website can’t be discussed because they simply don’t exist at this point.
“We do know that we’re going to be employing more modern technology,” he said.
With a dynamic site, a sleeker look and more methods of storytelling available, dailygazette.com will deliver improved reader experiences across all platforms — digital, mobile and print — Overit said in a statement announcing the project.
Reach business editor John Cropley at 395-3104, [email protected] or @cropjohn on Twitter.