Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Jungfrau Zeitung secures its newspaper business

As a creative person, it’s always strange to see something you’ve spent so much time on being developed and revised even after you’ve finished with it. Ever since the content management system came onto the web design and development scene, more and more websites have been run by their editors, who adhere to the design and structural concepts sometimes to a greater and usually to a lesser extent. This is a regular occurrence and one which is both part of the pleasure and source of trauma to web designers and multimedia producers all over the world.

Before moving to Burson-Marsteller’s Crossmedia team in Bern this time last year, I’d worked with the art director and development manager of the Jungfrau Zeitung local newspaper in the Bernese Oberland since 2001. We continually built upon and improved the website which started out in the mid 1990s as the Mountain Times, adding and taking away features as mood and requirement dictated. While we moved content around on the website and added new means of accessing it, one thing remained constant: the journalists‘ input. Their articles, typed into the content management system using a combination of regular text and shorthand formatting for multimedia elements, was a fixed point on which we could build the output we required. The journalists wrote articles and we fed them out to a variety of destinations: from the newspaper to the corporate website, RSS feed, printed edition of the newspaper and a range of special embedded channels which were made available to selected local clients.

At the end of last month, the company in Brienz launched the newest revised version of the website and system; the first version in eight years in which I played no part. From previous iterations, I can well remember that a relaunch is a stressful time, requiring a huge amount of work and debugging to produce a change to the website which the vast majority of readers silently accepted. The odd reader would love the change or hate it, complain about some aspects and praise others. Again, things which form a part of every web developer’s dreams and nightmares.

I must praise Oli, Tom, Luke and the rest of the team for the newest version, as I know what a battle it is to update and re-launch a new system under the scrutiny of critical readers, contributors, journalists and editors. By developing the website and multimedia output of what is, in essence, a local alpine newspaper, the future of the newspaper and company is strengthened tenfold against the current decline in newspaper business. While newspaper after newspaper is closing down across the world, the local newspaper from a small alpine region here in Switzerland appears to be going from strength to strength. By improving and expanding the digital offering to support a light version for modern mobile devices such as the iPhone, combined with the excellent, insightful (and probably unique, for a local newspaper) English language articles, the local newspaper run from offices in Brienz, Meiringen, Grindelwald and Interlaken should be a model for all newspaper businesses worldwide. (Indeed, interested parties in German-speaking regions have long had the possibility to adopt the successful business model through Gossweiler Media’s Mikrozeitung concept.)

In short: the newest version of the newspaper, to which I still subscribe online despite no longer working or living in the catchment area, produced by a small handful of people and covering purely local news instead of falling to the temptation of reporting news from more distant regions, is at least a match for – if not better than – most national newspapers.

The official German language news item covering the release of the newspaper is online both at the Gossweiler Media website and the website of the Jungfrau Zeitung itself; the latter version has also been translated into English and appears in the English section of the newspaper.

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