On Friday, a note crossed the editor’s desk that read something like this:
"I am a regular subscriber to your paper and have been for 25 years. I am on vacation and trying to read the Naples Daily News online. I think you’ve ruined your Web site. ... How do I access today’s news from this morning’s paper? Is there any way to just go on this site and read today’s paper without all this hassle?"
I have a great answer for this reader who is out of town and still interested in what’s happening back in Southwest Florida, but first some history.
Back in the old days — let’s say 1996 or so — the nation’s daily newspapers spawned their own Web sites. This was back when posting news reports and photos live from a scene of an accident, a fire or some other news event was little more than a dream and live video was fantasy.
Newspapers used the Web sites as a place to republish what was in the daily print edition. Print came first.
In our case, all the stories and photographs were prepared for the midnight press run. Then we — well, not me, but others — worked until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. putting the stories from the newspaper on our Web site.
Our Web site each morning more or less mirrored our print edition. They were nearly one and the same.
At the very least, we — and nearly every other newspaper in the country — had it backwards.
Now nearly all our stories are placed on the Web as soon as they are written and edited. Then, we — well, not me, but others — work until 11 p.m. or midnight putting many of the Web stories in our print edition. Sometimes stories appear on our Web site more than a day before a version is used in our print edition.
It took a number of years to truly appreciate that the print newspaper and the digital Web site are two different animals and, if they aren’t treated as such, they are doomed. Sadly, we have witnessed a few extinctions in recent years.
The trend, many editors believe, is for the Web site — or Web sites — to be totally different from the newspaper that still lands on driveways throughout the circulation area.
The reasons are many.
The Web site can be immediate. News can be reported as it happens. News in the daily print edition was signed off on eight or more hours before it makes it to newsstands and homes.
The Web sites gave our newsroom the opportunity to exploit immediacy — a journalistic advantage that radio and television enjoyed, but with additional attributes. Web sites are interactive. Our readers can discuss stories and even contribute news and photographs.
The print newspaper still carries advantages of its own. It serves a loyal audience — witness the note from our reader. It retains the ability to sort through the clutter of rapidly changing news reports that pelt us from the Web and the broadcast media around the clock. It’s a great vehicle to take stock of recent happenings, to expound on weighty issues and provide thoughtful analysis. It’s habit-forming. If we are doing our jobs right, the stories that are prominent on www.naplesnews.com should be the first drafts of stories that you will read in tomorrow’s newspaper, not today’s.
Breaking news gets prominence on our Web site, because we can truly break news on the Web and we are getting better at it.
That’s why our print edition and our Web site are different animals.
But, we do realize that loyal readers of our print edition still appreciate a familiar news source when they are on summer vacation or whenever they are out of town.
So, to answer our subscriber of 25 years:
A few months before we unveiled our new Web site design, we introduced our e-daily. You can find a link at the top of our www.naplesnews.com home page (Or, go to naplesnews.com/newsstand/).
Click on the link and you get our "Daily Newsstand" — a listing of electronic editions of the actual print publication. You get an exact replica of the print edition, which you can read page by page. You can also easily search for a story and e-mail a copy.
It is truly our daily print newspaper online. Naplesnews.com is not.
You will also find links to our sister print publications: Marco Eagle, Collier Citizen, The Banner, Naples Sun Times, Vista Semanal, the Journals and even links to the electronic editions of The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and New York Times.
Again, these aren’t the Web sites of those newspapers. These are the actual print newspapers in digital form.
Some are free and some require a fee.
In the case of the Daily News, if you are already a subscriber you can get the e-edition for free if you pay for your subscription with a credit card through the "EZ Pay Plan." If you choose to pay for your subscription with a check your cost is a penny a day.
Either way, you’ll have to call 263-4839 to register for a password. If you’re not a print subscriber, you can get access to the daily e-edition for $1.50 a week.
Phil Lewis is editor of the Daily News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.