Chronicle’s website named best in Montana by MNA

The Chronicle’s website won first place in Division IV at the Montana Newspaper Association’s annual awards banquet in Big Sky this weekend.

Division IV includes all newspapers with a circulation of 7,500, such as the Billings Gazette, Helena Independent-Record, Missoulian, Montana Standard and Great Falls Tribune.

This makes me happy.

Of course, now I have to really kick it up a few notches to earn the title again next year. Lee Enterprises rolled out a fantastic new template on the Gazette and is in the process of rolling it out to its other sites in Montana. This means I have to do something drastic to improve the quality and speed of our site to keep up.

Don’t worry. I have plans in motion already.

(And no, IE6 and IE7 are not supported by my plans.)

[For a full list of the Chronicle’s 30 winners, see our story here.](

‘You’d do better business if you just gave me your product for free’

Reader [Dan Trombley wrote to us this morning on Facebook]( to criticize the digital subscriptions we offer:

> Have you noticed your online readers have declined, Chronicle? It really does suck not being able to view a damn article because I read 7 in a month, and do not want to pay for the “online subscription”….Limit it to 7 articles a week, and you’ll notice a positive change.

This is just one in a string of similar notes and emails I received over the weekend. All have the same basic message:

> It’s a travesty that you want us to pay for this. I don’t like you anyhow. You’re not worth my time. I won’t be subscribing.

I’ll use Trombley’s post as an example since it’s possibly the most civil and printable I received.

As I have been doing with these user comments on this blog, I’m going to take this one line by line.

> Have you noticed your online readers have declined, Chronicle?


I have noticed that the week-over-week stats are very consistent with what they were before we launched the metering system on our site. The number of comments has declined somewhat, and for some reason engagement on Facebook has declined a bit too. However, our number of pageviews, visits and Facebook followers remains consistent. It is really too soon at only two weeks out from launch for the analytics data to show any meaningful change in our traffic.

> It really does suck not being able to view a damn article because I read 7 in a month

You should buy a subscription for unlimited access to the site.

> and do not want to pay for the “online subscription”

Oh. Well, you’ve got a problem there.

> Limit it to 7 articles a week, and you’ll notice a positive change.

I’ll bet we would. I’ll bet we’d get an even more “positive change” if we just gave them all away for free. Heck, I’d bet we’d get more subscribers if we just gave the newspaper away for free too, while we’re at it.

Look, just because you hit our meter’s limit, sir, doesn’t mean the meter is set too low. It means you are reading so much of our content that you probably ought to be paying for it. It means you are a **regular reader**.

Mr. Trombley, we are not looking to inconvenience you any more than the barrista at the coffee shop is looking to inconvenience you by asking you to pay for that latte.

Local calling between MSU and UM ends today

Though I appear to be the only person in the newsroom that knew this service existed, I still think it’s worth a blog post.

Montana State University announced recently that [local calling between the Bozeman campus and the University of Montana is ending](, effective today.

In the linked announcement, MSU says that the trunk circuit between the campuses, which allowed seven-digit, local dialing, was a benefit of extra bandwidth left over on the Montana PBS intercampus connection.

However, the PBS connection’s carrier has closed, and today the trunk circuit goes offline. Montana PBS has an alternate connection, but that type of connection isn’t compatible with the phone system.

Calls between the campuses will no longer be free — at least until someone can figure out how to reestablish the connection. For now, though, calls will require a full 10 digits and be billed at the state’s long distance rate of 7.5 cents per minute.

MSU spokesman Tracy Ellig said that since no money was involved in providing the service, no statistics on its use were kept. He did say there is not a “significant” amount of calling traffic between the campuses, and that getting people to remember to use the local calling feature for the, perhaps, one call they made to the other campus per year was a bit difficult.

Ellig said a new service may be up and running within a few weeks that would probably only cost about “one or two thousand dollars.”