Indian Country Today begins beta testing on its new platform; a spacious channel

Dear Reader: Indian Country Today looks different. We are beginning our shift from a web platform to a mobile base.

Dear Reader:

Indian Country Today looks different. We are beginning our shift from a web platform to a mobile base via The Maven network. (You’ll see that address on your browser a lot. No worries. We’re still IndianCountryToday.com)

The Maven is a web and mobile platform as well as a coalition of publishers that is designed to attract national advertising. More on that shortly.

The Maven site is clean on the web and spectacular on your phone. It’s a lot simpler to use and it has a different kind of organization. Think search instead of category. In addition, we are in the process of setting up a secondary server that will backup the files from the old Indian Country Today Media Network. The goal is to protect all of the stories, photographs, and columns that has been produced over the years.

If you look at our new front page, you will probably be thinking about social media. It has that look and feel. In fact, our front page is a newsfeed and our stories are available to scroll at length.

So everything goes to the front page. And you can sort that by most recent, most popular, and “the latest reply.” That’s an interactive feature that will grow over time as more and more readers spend time on the sight, posting and sharing information.

There are a few other features and list of categories you will see. (And, in every category, you can sort by newest, most popular, or latest reply.

The Top Stories are the ones that editors select every day. It will be a combination of features and news stories, video, and audio reports.

News is a full collection of the stories (as well as video and audio reports) that we publish.

Opinion is just that. Essays from readers. This is what’s referred to in the newspaper world as “op-eds” which means opposite editorial. For now, at least, Indian Country Today won’t be writing opinions. We’ll focus our energy on news. In the near future, we hope to see this grow to be a robust section packed with ideas.

Classified is the section for advertising, paid spots that will be everything from job recruitment to events and announcements by organizations.

The Press Pool is a new feature. This section will be press releases from tribes, non-profits, businesses, and any reputable group that wants to reach Indian Country Today readers. We want press releases to post quickly and we will be working with tribes and public affairs firms to make that so.

The Archive is the stories published by Indian Country Today prior to 2018. Not every story in the paper’s history will be found there, but we are working on a secondary archive that will be hosted on another server that will preserve the history of Indian Country Today (or at least as much as we have access to now.)

Conversations are another new feature. This area will allow editors (with suggestions from readers) to post content and discuss it. So if you see an article in The New York Times about Indian Country and race … there will a home for a conversation about that story.

Some of these features require you to register. We will be in touch about that. We have migrated thousands of names provided to us by readers that were registered on our site -- so after Monday check and see if you are already listed. If not, registration is quick and easy. Create an avatar. And join in on the discussion.

If you want to search for one of the authors from Indian Country Today go the left of the screen where you will see horizontal lines. Click on that and authors will come up as a category. There is a search function available

Why are we doing this? (We know, change is hard.) There are two reasons. The first reason is we need a framework that allows journalists to work on stories, not designing and maintaining web pages. This is a content management system that does that. Second, this new platform will attract advertising revenue. This is critical because we need to build a sustainable business model for Indian Country Today; one that includes advertising, reader membership, and foundation grants. Our goal is to grow and hire more journalists. This will help us make that so.

So play around with the site. Share stories. Post them on social media, send them to friends, see what our platform can do.

Back to the advertising.

It’s important that Indian Country Today builds a business model for the long term. So we want support from our readers. As nonprofit, public media, we are doing that via memberships. I am delighted to report that we have exceeded $50,000 for our first Spring Membership Drive. And that’s before our official launch on Monday.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We also need money from advertising. The best way to make this so is to contact Heather Donovan at hdonovan@IndianCountryToday.com

Some of those sales will come from what’s called programmatic ads. These are ads that are purchased digitally and posted on our site. That’s where The Maven comes in.

We are also keen on winning foundation and private grants. We see the new Indian Country Today as public media -- and that means support from the nonprofit sector.

To make this work: We need all three revenue streams in order to serve our readers. Ok. Enough business.

This new Indian Country Today platform will be multimedia. Words. Graphics. Videos. And sound. The world as our readers already see it from their social media feeds.

The first editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, Elias Boudinot, called Native journalism “a spacious channel.” I think he would recognize that metaphor in our new platform.

Mark Trahant, editor, Indian Country Today

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