Website desserts

My last JACC blog entry talked about the need to add more than the normal story fare to our newspaper web sites to give our readers more reason to come to our sites. See “All meat and no potatoes, veggies and desserts.”

In the post I alluded to the real problem with that idea: Our students are all so busy covering our campuses and learning new storytelling forms that none of them have time to create even more content. My post suggested that they seek other sources of content that can be pulled into our sites with little extra effort.

What you need to do is look for tools like Google Gadgets. These free add-ons cover a lot of possibilities. I use them on the JACC site for the search function and for the RSS feeds for the JACC blog and the “JACC in the News” features at the bottom of the front page.

Here’s another that you might want to add to your college publication sites: Daily Comics. This Google gadget automatically pulls in more than 25 name brand comics to your web site each day. Once you set it up you can forget
about it.

If you’d like to see a sample of Daily Comics, look at the JACC web site.

Google gadgets require little or no HTML knowledge. Just go to the tool’s web page or just go to Google Gadgets and do a search for “Daily Comics.”

Click on the button called “Add to your web page.” Set the parameters and copy the code. Paste the code into your web site and you’re done.

With this gadget I recommend setting the width to 625 pixels and depth to 250. This will allow the whole comics to be seen without any scrolling.

For the two-thirds of the JACC schools that use College Publisher, here are some options for using the code. Those not using College Publisher could, of course, use the code on their sites in other ways, too.

  • Paste the code into a regular story page. Set the story as a “rolling story” and use dates that will have the story staying live for, oh, two years. This will change, of course, for schools as they convert to the new CP tool.
  • Create a special page, like I’ve done with the JACC example. To do this, go to the Presentation tab and choose the “Create Page” option. You can then create a front page link to this page. This, of course, requires just a bit of HTML savvy.
  • Create an object with the “Page Designer” tool under the “Presentation” tab. Then the object can be place in various areas of the page, though the width will limit your options (see below).
  • Again, go to the “Page Designer” tool and select “Bottom Object” from the pulldown menu and paste the code into the template code.

One problem with Daily Comics is that you have to make it about 650 pixels wide to show the whole comic, but the Main Content column of most of our College Publisher sites is only 48 pixels wide. So if you follow my instructions above, the page will get pushed out of shape a bit. See the JACC example and notice how the third column is shoved out to make room for the comics. The only option above that works without doing this is the “bottom object” option, though that might not be the most desirable option.

In coming weeks I’ll share other ideas for “potatoes, veggies and desserts.”

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