Why Tom Garrett Is A Perfect Blogger

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Years ago, when Tom Garrett first started writing his Friday column for the Payson Roundup, he called it "Your Turn" in hopes that it would be interactive.

The title "Your Turn" itself offers an invitation for response.

If you've ever read Garrett's column, you know he enjoys pondering the things he sees or, in many cases, the things he's seen during his life. He likes to turn those things around in his hand and examine them in a different way. He likes to make his readers think.

Unfortunately, most of the people who read Garrett's column never respond. I get a handful of personal e-mails, not for publication, from people who enjoy his writing and want to start a conversation, but not as many as "Your Turn" would imply.

Which is why, Garrett is going to become the Roundup's first full-time blogger.

The "Your Turn" concept is perfect for the Web, because you can read his writing and then answer him -- exactly the way the column was planned all those years ago.

When Garrett came into my office on Wednesday to discuss the details of his blog, which we are going to call "I'm Listening," I told him that he could write "as often as he wanted about anything that he wanted."

I look forward to what he'll do with that kind of freedom.

Expanding Garrett's column into a blog is part of a larger shift at this newspaper.

To understand where I'm going, answer this question: Are you reading this column through the glass of a computer screen or are you holding it in your hand, reading it straight from the newspaper?

If all the research is true, one is just as likely as the other.

Often people will do both -- read the paper in print and then visit the Web site later to read the My Roundup forum, surf the archives for background information or look at the photo galleries we posted because we thought something was important, but didn't have room in the pulp pages of the paper.

How much content a paper like the Roundup -- which only prints twice a week -- can print, and when, has changed thanks to the Internet.

It's as if the edges of the page have been blurred and spilled into cyberspace.

According to the most recent count, payson.com averages about 700,000 page views a month. A "page view" is counted every time someone logs onto our Web site and each time they click on a story or on a forum link, it's recorded as a page view.

While we can count them, we don't know who they are or what they are reading.

But we are beginning to truly appreciate, more and more, that our Web site is as much a part of our newspaper as the product we deliver to your door on Tuesdays and Fridays.

A couple weeks ago, publisher Richard Haddad and I attended a workshop about online readers.

The instructor showed us a few demographic slides that showed that online newspaper readers tend to be well educated, they tend to own their homes, be professionals or retired professionals and they tend to be female.

But that seemed to be all he could really tell us, except that they are important and they are the future.

And we didn't have much insight to ourselves.

To be honest, it's easier to know who reads the paper when you deliver it to their house or when they walk into the lobby on a Tuesday afternoon and strike up a conversation. But someone who logs on to payson.com in the middle of the night from the comfort of his or her living room, isn't that easy to get to know.

That's where you come in. If you are reading this column on a screen, I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to know who you are, what you read and what you want from our Web site.

Call me at 474-5251 ext. 115 or e-mail me at editor@payson.com.

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