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Tampa Bay Times gears up to deliver more email newsletters

CHRIS URSO | Times Emerging Platforms Producer Allison Graves and Senior Digital Editor, Emerging Platforms Joshua Gillin discuss the Tampa Bay Times DayStarter inside the newsroom.
Published May 31

As news consumption habits evolve, we are increasingly exploring ways to reach readers beyond the newspaper pages.

We do this through tampabay.com — a site that a whopping 80 percent of our digital readers access via their smartphones.

We do it through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and through new initiatives like TimesVision, where we now stream video through monitors affixed to news racks in select retail locations around Tampa Bay.

We do it through podcasts about sports, entertainment or true crimes.

And we're going to be doing it with more newsletters delivered straight to your inbox.

The first email newsletter changes will be apparent with the DayStarter, which summarizes the most important news and information first thing in the morning. It's by far our most popular newsletter, reaching more than 70,000 readers who signed up to receive it.

The new DayStarter will be written with more voice and personality. It will be distinctive, fresh and current. It's all part of our plan to more carefully curate the digital news for you –using our expertise and knowledge to help make sense of things quickly. You'll start to see changes next week.

DayStarter will arrive in your inbox about an hour earlier in the morning, Monday through Friday. Once a seven-day a week newsletter, we've cut back to the work week because our data shows that it didn't offer as much value to readers on weekends and holidays.

"Email newsletters help readers sift through all the information they are provided daily — that's why they sign up for them," said Joshua Gillin, one of our senior digital editors, who oversees newsletters at the Tampa Bay Times. "A link dump doesn't really help with that. We want to provide a channel that tells our audience they can come to us for a thoughtful summary throughout the week. Changing to a more narrative-driven format, something that sounds like a neighbor sharing the latest news with you, provides context and clarity that a simple list of news stories can't."

The current DayStarter has mostly operated on auto-pilot, Gillin notes. A web producer or editor compiles a list of stories from what we've published, and software takes it from there, generating the newsletter that you see. The new DayStarter will be different. It will require that editors and producers from across the newsroom coordinate.

"It's a much more collaborative process that doesn't rely on any single person, and that variety of thoughts and experiences is reflected in what goes into the finished email," Gillin said.

It will work like this: Digital editors and producers will attend daily news meetings and keep a close eye on emerging stories throughout the day. Then they will choose the best of what the Times has to offer. The result will be a well-tended and interesting experience rather than something that looks like a robot built it.

The newsletter team includes the night shift editor and the early digital producers who arrive at 5 a.m. On most days, as many as six people will contribute to the final product each day.

"We want to help readers find what they need in a format they enjoy," Gillin said. "Plus, the price is right: All of our email newsletters are provided for free. All it costs you is an email address."

We plan to revamp our formats and delivery times for other newsletters, as well. We'll add new ones. And we may say goodbye to a few others — all in the spirit of finding the best mix of news and information for you.

If you'd like to sign up for the DayStarter, you can find a signup box on tampabay.com. You also can go directly to tampabay.com/newsletters, where you can create an account to manage all your newsletter subscriptions.

"This is a major step in modernizing both how our newsroom operates and how readers will get information from the Times," Gillin said. "It's the latest update in a comprehensive overhaul of digital products and practices here. I think people will really see the improvements and innovations starting to add up."

Mark Katches can be reached at 727-893-8441 or follow on Twitter at @markkatches

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