Kentucky New Era adds social networking

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The Kentucky New Era, a local daily newspaper serving Hopkinsville, KY, has added ThePort Social Media Suite to its online offerings.

ThePort provides myKNE.com with a local Web 2.0 community that includes multiple blogs, video sharing and personalized news feeds. Readers of the Kentucky New Eraámay also comment on stories from the paper's home page using myKNE.com.

"We wanted the social-networking portion to be there because we wanted to be on the ground floor of what we saw was an emerging trend in the industry," said Dan Stahl, Web publisher for the Kentucky New Era. "The literature and the seminars and our own personal experiences indicate that people want to have more input.

"We wanted to empower the people to contribute to the news as much as they consume the news," he continued. "We're in conversation mode now, where people have as much to say as they have to read."

Stahl said that part of the Kentucky New Era's goal in implementing ThePort was to dominate the local Internet presence. Blogs and message boards are online competition for the KNE, which depends largely on local ads and hometown readership.

Currently, ads on the Kentucky New Era home page are duplicated on myKNE pages free. Most of these ads are for local businesses, such as car dealerships, furniture stores and the area hospital.

Wooing younger readers forms another important segment of the myKNE business plan.

"Of course we want that business and we want those eyeballs on our site and there are lots of people who can get that info through other modes," Stahl added. "Also, there are a lot of young folks out there who don't really care about the news and the local paper. We want to bring kids out there into the fold and get them to contribute to the news as well as read it."

Jacqui Chew, VP of marketing and social media strategist at ThePort Network, touts the interactivity and individualization of ThePort sites as draws for users.

"Because I've taken the time to personalize this page, I'm going to come to it all the time," Chew asserted. "I may take five to 10 minutes to read my news, but now that I have all this cool stuff that I've added, I can now spend 20 minutes on this page."

The Kentucky New Era home page receives 600,000 page views per month; the print edition has a daily circulation of 12,000.

Since its launch, myKNE.com has attracted around 6,000 page views per month and 300 registered users, the paper claims. The goal, said Stahl, is to register 1,000-1,500 users.

One possible point of growth is the paper's planned partnership with a high school writing group. Editorial content written by the teens will be published in the paper, in a move that Stahl hopes will entice more high schoolers to read and more community members to sign on to myKNE and comment.

ThePort Network, based in Atlanta, GA, provides social-networking platforms for the media and publishing industry, pro sports teams and membership-driven organizations. Customers include Cox Newspapers, The Atlanta Falcons and RCI.

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