LaunchUX Case Study: Franklin County Free Press
Following a long career as a reporter, experienced, respected and newly retired journalist Vicky Taylor founded Franklin County Free Press. Her vision for the project was an online news site that kept the residents of Franklin County informed of goings-on in their community.
Taylor also wanted Franklin County Free Press to be free in the first amendment sense, but she also wanted there to be no cost for readers to access unlimited articles (the company she retired from used a “soft paywall” model in which visitors to the site could read several articles for free before being asked to subscribe). For revenue, Franklin County Free Press relied on advertising, which requires a steady flow of visitors.
To grow her readership, Franklin County Free Press would need to be easily found online.
Taylor’s reporting and publishing skills were unquestioned, but the site was plagued with DDOS attacks and malware. When the website wasn’t being shutdown by the attacks, it was painfully slow to use.
Readers who found Franklin County Free Press are skeptical of the media by nature, and the poor online presence was further undercutting Taylor’s credibility.
News sites – like their print counterparts – are almost hyper-focused on the user experience. They need to be easily navigated and understood by the widest possible audience. The stakes are raised even higher by the fact that a news site’s trustworthiness is directly related to its user experience.
Secure the reputation by securing the website.
Make the website easier to find online and make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for when they get there.
Keep the public informed about news and information that is by, for and about the local community.
Vicky created Franklin County Free Press to fill a gap in local news coverage that was created when the dominant newspapers in town, which were owned by the same corporation, began to pull back their local news coverage in favor of syndicated content and pieces from their own news network. Residents in Chambersburg, PA were now being served articles from newspapers in Erie – nearly 300 miles away – as if it was local coverage. Chambersburg was quickly becoming a news desert. Local news sites are notoriously idealistic enterprises, and all of the SEO, web design and user experience initiatives would need to be done in the service of creating an informed public.
As a website builder, Nathan Neil was intrigued by the challenge posed by Franklin County Free Press’s predicament. As a resident, he recognized the importance of supporting an independent press in his local community.
Removing the obstructions that were preventing Franklin County Free Press from expanding its audience reach would require knowledge and skill in the following core competencies:
- Website hosting
- Website security
- Website design
- User experience
- Social media
The content of a local news site is both never ending and staggeringly varied. Nowhere was this more evident than the matter of obituaries, a mainstay of local news publishing. Vicky Taylor had committed to running them at no cost as a service to the community, a service that LaunchUX continued. However, the obituaries ran in such quantities that in a strictly chronological news feed, other news stories would be buried.
We redesigned the site so that the obituaries would be shown across the bottom area of the website and non-obituary news stories would show across the top. This way, visitors could see the most recent news stories and scroll down to see recent deaths in the area. We also made it easier for readers to search and find obituaries for particular friends or family members. This solution increased the overall usability of the website while maintaining the respectful dignity of the content in question.
Today, the website’s numbers are between 160 and 200,000 readers per month.
LaunchUX’s experience perfecting the security, design and UX of Franklin County Free Press’s, which was already considered successful by local news site standards, is a testament to what can achieved through further improvements and refining.
Our ongoing relationship with Franklin County Free Press demonstrate that an ongoing relationship with an SEO provider/web developer that provides continuous support can increase overall traffic and create a user experience that makes people want to come back and visit the website again.
As the “giants” roll back their local news coverage, there is a real opportunity for startups with low overhead and high ambition to replace them. In our time with Franklin County Free Press, we have seen how streamlining the overall content distribution process and making information more accessible to local audiences can make that happen.
The single most significant step in the entire process, however, was the decision to migrate the website to LaunchUX’s hosting services. This transition made all of the tweaks and enhancements that followed
LaunchUX is a boutique digital marketing firm located in Chambersburg, PA that specializes in building websites, search engine optimization and secure web hosting. Ranked by UpCity in the top 10% of SEO firms nationwide, you can be sure that LaunchUX delivers measurable results.
Contact us today to discuss where you want your company to go next – and how we can help you get there.