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Column: Blizzard captures top digital audience of 2012

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In Monday’s newspaper, we announced that the closing of the Dolly Madison plant was The Republic’s top story of the year. In my column that day, I walked readers through the process of how that selection was made.

It was a big, ongoing story. During November, as a Hostess Brands ultimatum was issued and union employees stood their ground against accepting wage and benefit cuts, the emotional issue — which ultimately left a longtime, local manufacturing plant shuttered and more than 200 people unemployed — captured the attention of our newspaper audience like no other story of 2012.

Good choice.

But if digital readers were casting their votes for top story of the year, there would be a different result. In fact, online readers “vote” every day by clicking on links to stories of interest to them that are published on our digital site,

The top digital story of the year? It was the Dec. 26 snowstorm, the biggest in years, with up to 8 inches of snow falling throughout that day in some parts of Bartholomew County.


With two dozen weather-news updates posted throughout that day, as well as weather forecasts and alerts, plus more than 70 closings, our digital weather coverage received more than 56,000 page views, twice the amount of any other online story last year.

You see, online readers have an appetite for immediacy. Typically, they are not looking to understand often-complicated, important local issues, the kind of content that is explored and explained on the front page of the daily newspaper.

Instead, digital readers are looking for fast-developing news that catches their attention or impacts them. A few paragraphs are plenty. When they have more time, they will read longer, more insightful accounts in the newspaper.

The blizzard story was a perfect example of high-demand online content.

For starters, snow began falling early in the morning, around the time people were waking up and wondering how things would play out for the day. Conditions were changing quickly with roads and business closings. They fired up the laptop and went online, looking for the latest news.

At 5 a.m., it was still dark out, and they had a limited view of weather conditions from the picture windows of their homes. But our digital coverage gave them a wider look at current conditions and the day ahead. Weather factors were changing almost by the minute — and digital readers came back often for updates.

But big snowstorms don’t happen every day, so what plays well online when road conditions aren’t top of mind? Typically, it’s news that comes off the police beat, and some of it is quite emotional.

Traffic accidents that claim lives.

Arrests for serious crimes.

Police raids for illegal activity.

Occasionally, a good-news development will strike digital readers’ fancy, such an online report that a six-member Columbus group would split a

$14 million Hoosier Lottery jackpot in August. It ended up being one of the top 10 digital stories for 2012.

Digital is fast and furious. Print is in-depth and insightful.

The journalists who create The Republic’s print and digital news reports are one and the same. Only the packaging and presentation of our high-interest local content are different.

The best format? For Republic subscribers, both are at their fingertips, and they don’t have to pick just one. They can utilize print and online, tapping into whichever format best serves their interests at that particular moment in time.

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You can reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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