When winter weather strikes, website traffic goes up, especially as it relates to school delays and closures.
This information has traditionally been the domain of broadcast media because of its immediacy. Rarely have newspapers been able to get in on the action of reporting weather-related closures because it is a fast-moving target.
The Internet, of course, has changed all that - and advancements in technology have further streamlined the process.
About six or seven years ago, the Herald began posting school and business closures when available. This meant collecting information from each agency (in this community, this means school districts and government agencies) and posting it online. This was problematic because many agencies used fax machines until relatively recently, rather than emails and other forms of communications. It was not unusual for me to receive voice mails and text messages early in the morning to post online if I happened to wake up.
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Three years ago, this all changed when we began to use a service called Flash Alert out of Oregon. It's an elegant and hands-off system that gets the information to you instantly. Each agency pays Flash Alert a modest fee to have access to a website. When, for example, the Kennewick School District posts its school delays or closures on Flash Alert, that information shows up on the Herald's site almost instantly.
When I saw the snow start Sunday evening, I jumped online and posted the alert on our home page. It's interesting to look at the traffic pattern so far today. The page has received about 4,000 page views so far and traffic has been steady from midnight on. It began to go up considerably during the 4 a.m. hour and peaked between 7 and 8 a.m. with nearly 600 page views.
With more snow and cold in our near-term forecast, this page will likely remain popular with readers. That said, most citizens are used to turning to radio and television for this information, so your local newspaper still is working its way into the game. And this brings up another point: There are so many ways for people to receive this information now (websites such as ours, Twitter, Facebook, text alerts and more), broadcast media's grip on this is quickly being disrupted.