To Our Readers…

The Houston Herald is about to undergo a multi-media transformation with a major revamp of our popular site.

You’ll be seeing more photo album galleries of sporting and community events, audio of news happenings and interactive maps that show where news is occurring. Oftentimes, space limits our ability to include this in the print edition, which studies show is read by about 8,800 residents each week. Video snippets will eventually join the site. When breaking news occurs, you’ll receive an e-mail in your inbox.

And there are other new features that will soon be available:

*A community calendar that allows you to post events and pictures and even send a RSVP that you plan to attend.

*Our classified ads will be available to anyone with an Internet connection. Users will be able to do a local search or look for a specific item in the United States.

Sellers can add photos to their online classified ad and also place a word classified for the print edition.

*Real estate firms will be able to use sophisticated software with ease that allows them to expose your listings to a worldwide audience.

*Downloads of our popular special print news sections, as well as the front page of each week’s newspaper, will be available. Eventually, print subscribers will be able to read the entire paper online in an electronic replica of the Herald’s print edition. We call it the “e-edition.” That will come as good news to those who can’t wait for the mail to eventually arrive with the weekly newspaper.

*All businesses are listed in a free directory when someone needs a service.

*You’ll still see many of the popular features on the current site: obituaries, notices of deaths as they occur, our cartoon gallery, precipitation reports from weather watchers in the county, the Newspaper In Education page and other features.

*Simple forms allow users to submit wedding, engagement or anniversary announcements, along with the ability to upload a photo from their desktop.

*Along with our blog, the Piney Watering Hole, there are more opportunities for interaction with weekly polls and a guestbook.

*A church page, broken into categories by religion, gives complete service information for every area church.

Since last fall we’ve been working on this project, which draws on the news and advertising resources in our print edition, to open new opportunities to Texas County residents through the Internet.

We’ve worked hard for the last nine months to understand how we can best serve our readers and advertisers in multiple media – electronic with audio and video – at a time when there is constant change in the way people consume information.

What you will see online at our improved Web site is a culmination of those efforts. The popularity of our site continues to amaze us. A few figures: In April, 14,606 individual computers accessed our Web site 42,496 times. In all, readers viewed 76,447 pages of information generated by our staff. In fact, if you check Google for Houston, Mo., you’ll find is the second top entry among 11.2 million. It’s second on Yahoo. That usage is part of a nationwide trend: A study released in April showed that 37.6 percent of active U.S. Internet users, visited newspaper Web sites during the first three months of 2007. That’s a 5.3 percent jump over the first quarter of last year.

Simply put, your weekly newspaper has turned into a daily source of information for those who care about our area. When news happens, it means within a minute or so we now post a breaking news headlines on our Web site. More breadth about the story appears in our print edition.

The newspaper business is changing rapidly. The Herald is working hard to provide you with innovative ways to bring news and advertising into your households and businesses.

-Brad Gentry, publisher and Jeff McNiell, assistant managing editor.

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