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Electronic Distribution of Local Government News and Information Local Government Webmasters Meeting September 23, 2004 -- Seattle, Washington Quinn Robinson Municipal Research & Services Center Information and the 21st Century

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Electronic Distribution of Local Government News and Information

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Electronic Distribution of Local Government News and Information

Local Government Webmasters Meeting

September 23, 2004 -- Seattle, Washington

Quinn RobinsonMunicipal Research & Services Center


Information and the 21st Century

  • We’re drowning in information

  • We need to search harder to find authoritative information and knowledge

  • We have multiple sources to consult, both analog and digital, when looking for information

  • Objectivity and bias continues to be a problem with news sources

  • People expect corporations and governments to be open and transparent


Things Used to Be So Much Easier...


Overview

  • Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Goals of Electronic Distribution of Local Government News and Information

  • Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Optimizing HTML and Graphics for E-mail Delivery

  • Text and Typography

  • A Sample Mass E-mail Application

  • Conclusion


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Method: Town Crier

  • Benefits: clear message; citizens can ask questions and interact with; town crier dress is very showy

  • Drawbacks: News travels only as fast as messenger; must be present to hear the news; town crier only a messenger, so if you ask a question you don’t get authoritative answer


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Method: Bulletin Board

  • Benefits: citizens can access news whenever they visit; information can be scrutinized

  • Drawbacks: some citizens unable to visit; some citizens and children can’t read; notices can be removed by hooligans


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Method: Newspapers

  • Benefits: news delivered directly to citizens; can reach a wide audience; trusted source (?)

  • Drawbacks: news delivery is delayed; controlled by media, not governments; expensive to distribute


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Method: Television/Radio

  • Benefits: instant news delivery; news delivered directly to citizens; can reach a wide audience; government cable channels/radio stations

  • Drawbacks: controlled by media, not governments; expensive to distribute


Traditional Methods of Delivering Government News and Info

  • Important Note:These traditional methods (bulletin boards, newspapers, television and radio) are still valid and can be used in conjunction with new methods of delivering government news and information electronically

  • You can still hire a town crier for local events


Goals of Electronic Distribution of Government News and Info


Goals of Electronic Distribution of Government News and Info

  • Open government 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year (366 days on leap years!)

  • Allows communication with citizens wherever they are, even if out of range of newspapers, television and radio broadcasts

  • Provide centralized and distributed access to news and information

  • Connect and interact with citizens (two-way communication)

  • Provide government services, electronic transactions and electronic messaging


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Method:Usenet Newsgroups

  • Benefits: Decentralized and inexpensive; easy to post messages

  • Drawbacks: Requires computer and Internet connection; need to download a news reader; not really used for news much anymore

  • More information:http://www.landfield.com/govnews/geid.html


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Method:World Wide Web Sites

  • Benefits: Centralized information presentation and management; analysis of visitor statistics; gateway for government information and news; easy distribution of news, info and files

  • Drawbacks: Requires computer and Internet connection; users must visit site in order to benefit; slow connections for modem users;

  • More information:http://www.mrsc.org/Subjects/InfoServ/localgov.aspx


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Important Note:Usenet Newsgroups and World Wide Web Sites are useful, but as compared to traditional methods of news delivery (town crier, newspaper, television and radio), these two methods don’t really deliver news and information to citizens without user action. These two methods have their strengths but there are other methods that can deliver information to citizens more directly with less user action, similar to traditional methods


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Method:E-mail Newsletters, Bulletins and Notices

  • Benefits: E-mail centrally created but widely distributed; no user action required after subscription; news and alerts can be instantly delivered; statistical analysis of delivey and clickthroughs possible;

  • Drawbacks: Requires computer and Internet connection; users must first subscribe to updates; slow connections for modem users; may be confused with spam

  • More information:http://contacts.gsa.gov/listgov.nsf/FirstGovEmailListDistribution?Openform


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Method:RSS Feeds

  • Benefits: Centralized information; information downloaded to citizens’ desktops; easy distribution of news and hyperlinks; not confused with spam

  • Internet connection; users must subscribe to RSS feeds to receive them;

  • More info:http://channels.lockergnome.com/rss/resources/

  • Comparison between E-mail and RSS http://weblogs.asp.net/alexbarn/archive/2004/05/22/139461.aspx


Tools for Electronic Delivery of Government News and Info

  • Make it easy to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter; possibly, add a link to subscribe on your homepage (see screenshot that follows)


Optimize HTML and Graphics for E-mail Delivery


Optimize HTML and Graphics for E-mail Delivery

  • Use simple tables and specify table background colors (in case email software has colored background)

  • Removing CSS tags from your messages (not supported in all e-mail readers)

  • Avoiding JavaScript, Flash and Java applets (also not supported in all e-mail readers)

  • Resizing and compressing images

  • Slicing larger images into smaller images


Optimize HTML and Graphics for E-mail Delivery

  • Sample of two different versions of MRSC Web Update E-mail Notice

    • Simple Design (lots of scrolling required):http://www.mrsc.org/Subjects/InfoServ/webmastr/040923/presentations/files/wedraft7.htm

    • Compact Design (less scrolling required):http://www.mrsc.org/Subjects/InfoServ/webmastr/040923/presentations/files/wedraft23.htm


Text and Typography


Text and Typography

  • Use sans-serif fonts (Verdana, Arial, etc) for headlines and titles

  • Use readable type for main text

  • Ensure font harmony throughout the email

  • Use GIF format for text graphics

  • JPEG graphics don’t do text graphics well


A Sample Mass E-mail Application


A Sample Mass E-mail Application

  • Features:

    • Importation of existing e-mail lists

    • Targeting e-mail messages to people based on user-defined attributes (zip code, employer, etc.)

    • E-mail creation with or without knowledge of HTML (though greater control possible with HTML)

    • Tracking of e-mail opens and clickthroughs using web beacons* (images embedded in emails)

    • Choice of HTML or text e-mails by subscribers

    • Compliance with CAN-SPAM Act of 2003:http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/108s877.html

* Doesn’t work if e-mail client has images turned off by default


A Sample Mass E-mail Application

  • Screenshots (following this slide)

    • E-mail Creation and Management Module (create e-mail from scratch or using HTML and graphics)

    • Subscriber Management Module (import e-mail lists, add and remove addresses)

    • E-mail Tracking Module (tracks e-mails delivered, opened and links clicked on)

    • E-mail Content Scanner (provides suggestions to help your message NOT be deleted by spam filters)


A Sample Mass E-mail Application

  • There are many other mass e-mail applications on the market, and so we are NOT promoting one specifically; here are some currently used

  • MRSC uses ExactTargethttp://www.exacttarget.com/

  • AWC uses MagnetMailhttp://www.realmagnet.com/

  • A Local Company’s Product (Microsoft)http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/products/online/lb/detail.mspx

  • Business Listingshttp://www.business.com/directory/advertising_and_marketing/online_marketing/email_marketing/


Conclusion

  • Use electronic communication methods to support traditional methods of communication

  • Help Web site visitors subscribe to e-mail newsletters and use newsletters to drive people to your Web site

  • Start with the goal in mind

  • Choose e-mail software vendors carefully

  • Make your content accessible to different email readers

  • Test your content without images turned on and make sure it looks OK


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