3-year-old website continues to grow

By Stanley Schwartz

If one wants to know anything about what’s going on in the Hamptons, he or she needs only to pick up a Press News Group newspaper. And much of that news carries over to the company’s award-winning website – 27east.com.

Brendan O’Reilly, webmaster for the site, said they use the same news judgment for the site as they do for the group’s newspapers. New stories and information goes up each week, but breaking news can be posted at any time. There are a lot of local governments on Long Island, he noted, so there is plenty of news – all the time. The Hamptons boasts a population of about 80,000 with the demographics running the full gamut of the super rich in huge mansions to the blue-collar workers in trailer parks.

“We have it all,” O’Reilly said, adding that thousands of people from Manhattan and Greenwich have second homes in the Hamptons. “During the summer we post more social news events.”

The website was started in 2007, about a year before O’Reilly joined the news operation as a reporter. He said the name was chosen because it is the main route out of the city across Long Island to Montauk – State Route 27.

“It’s ingrained in everyone’s memory,” he said.

But the name does pose a small branding problem. The strength of the site comes from the newspapers in the group that supply it with news and information. O’Reilly said some people have no idea the site is run by the Press News Group until they’re on it and see the links for the group’s papers. Ads promoting the site run in all the group’s papers.

“We used the newspapers in the marketing campaign for the site,” he said, “and people found it on their own.”

A lot of the information on the site is also used to direct people toward the print products. Stories are often used as teasers. After a paragraph or two, it will say for the rest of the article, go to the newspaper.

The group consists of the Easthampton Press, circulation 7,810; the Southampton Press East, circulation 9,545; the Southampton Press West, circulation 7,340; and the Press of Manorville & Moriches. In the National Newspaper Association’s most recent Better Newspaper Contest, 27east.com won second place for best website. The judges said, "Great logo and clean, classy design. Excellent calendar pages with well displayed `best bets.' But this site was meaty and full of local news and attitude, which is step-one to being an essential local resource."

The site receives about 1 million page views a month.

As webmaster, O'Reilly said most everything on the site goes through him first, but many of the employees have been trained to post stories if they need to go up right away.

One of the most popular features of the site is the comment area. People who have registered on the site can comment on the articles. Those who make comments are only identified by their ID number.

And that has some good and bad aspects to it. O'Reilly said comments from readers go up raw, before anyone on staff can see them. "There is no censorship," he said. But if a reader posts anything libelous or just plain mean, O'Reilly or someone on staff can take it down right away.

"There are some people who come to the site just to see the comments of other people," he said. And those who have made comments, come back to the site to see what others have said about their comments.

The real estate section is also quite popular, O'Reilly said. "It's the most comprehensive listing in the Hamptons."

After real estate, the site's classified section receives a lot of attention from readers. A local business guide, which provides reviews of businesses and restaurants, is popular as well. A business directory and a vacation guide attract more people to the site.

Although there is one ad rep dedicated to selling ads on the site, O'Reilly said, there is a lot of cross selling because of the various guides.

Banner ads and fixed ads on the site's home page get a premium rate. O'Reilly noted that the site also has rotating ads.

Right now, the site is undergoing a redesign to add blogs and a visitor's guide with a handbook. Enhanced navigation and a paywall are also included in the redesign. O'Reilly said it should be done sometime in October.

There will still be plenty of news and information for everyone, he added, but only subscribers to the print products will be able to unlock certain content.

© Stanley Schwartz 2010

Stanley Schwartz is the managing editor of Publisher’s Auxiliary NNA. You can contact him at stan@nna.org.

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