Up front: May 2012

Spring cleaning

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve redesigned our website, www.BusinessNC.com. We like its new look, and from the response so far, so do our visitors. We started the process about a year ago. The goal: a cleaner design that was easier to navigate. Unlike a lot of businesses, we didn’t have to worry about content — not with 30 years’ worth of stories about, data on and analysis of the state’s economy. The problem was how it was organized.

We generated so much that it couldn’t all go on the old site, even the contents of current issues, not to mention past ones. And what we did put up often was hard to find. Frankly, our website resembled that closet in which you pile everything you can’t find a proper place for. But instead of old board games, fishing rods and tennis rackets, ours had past profiles of top business and political leaders, lists of the largest this and that and the kind of in-depth features found nowhere else. All of it was valuable stuff (as is, of course, the contents of your closet) but difficult to access (like the singing Big Mouth Billy Bass stashed behind the velvet Elvis in mine).

When we did our last redesign five years ago, we were convinced that the site shouldn’t be simply a rehash of what was in the monthly magazine, republishing what had appeared in ink on paper in electronic form. So the home page focused on the Daily Digest, our morning roundup of top business stories from across the state. Though that proved very popular, we discovered that many visitors — some knowing nothing about the magazine — were extremely interested in its content, which is what drew them to the site in the first place. They were willing to spend the time and effort to dig into the archives, no easy task with our previous design.

What we’ve come up with is a combination of the two: more content from the magazine, presented in a form that is easier to navigate, and more news. (With more coming. More about that in the months ahead.) One way we’ve integrated those two goals is by hiring Erin Dunn. As associate editor of the monthly magazine, she plays a key role in shaping the print product, and as online editor, she is in charge of what appears on our website and other electronic media. Before dawn each weekday, she aggregates stories from news sources across the state for the Daily Digest, which she posts on the site and emails to subscribers. (To get it, go to BusinessNC.com and sign up. It’s free.) “We want to make the website just as engaging and informative as the magazine,” Erin says, “but present our content in a different way because online is a totally different platform.”

We’re doing different things in different ways but hewing to a course set long ago. As my dad, Business North Carolina’s editor for 25 years now, once wrote, “We do what nobody else does — cover one very special place, this state, and its economy, which is as diverse as the people who call it home.” As part of our spring cleaning, we’ve sharpened our tools so we can do that job for you that much better.