Opinion Columns & Blogs

March 10, 2014

Dear Reader | A new comic strip on tap; The mystery of online ads; Get ready for visitor season

After two weeks traveling and getting a chance to see some thought-provoking and ground-breaking journalism, I’m back with an update on something much less serious: the state of the comics page at The Sun News.

After two weeks traveling and getting a chance to see some thought-provoking and ground-breaking journalism, I’m back with an update on something much less serious: the state of the comics page at The Sun News.

As I wrote earlier, I opted to cancel Doonesbury during the week to avoid the reruns that date from the very early days of the strip, but I hadn’t decided what would replace that spot. Some of you were outraged that I would consider canning the reruns for something fresh but I am sticking with my earlier decision. And now I can share what strip will run daily in its place: Big Nate.

Many of you have probably come across Nate in other newspapers, but for those who haven’t made his acquaintance, the strip is the creation of Nate Peirce and stars an 11- year-old aspiring cartoonist who is the all-time record holder for detentions in school history. “He’s a self-described genius and sixth grade Renaissance Man. Nate, who lives with his dad and older sister, enjoys pestering his family and teachers with his sarcasm. To draw Big Nate, Peirce relies on memories of his own childhood and the experiences he collected teaching art at a New York City high school,” according to the syndicate that distributes the cartoon.

I hope you’ll enjoy his humor and I’m sure I don’t need to ask, but let me know what you think. The strip should begin in the next few days; and for the Doonesbury lovers out there, you’ll still get a brand new strip in color on Sundays.

The mystery of ad content online

Last week I got an email from a reader that contained the words “nice advertisement” and reproduction of our web page.

The main article on the page was the update on a missing Aynor woman and the Murrells Inlet man who had been charged with murder in connection with her disappearance. Just above and to the right of the article was a striking and arguably crude ad for the reality show “Party Down South.”

Unlike print advertisements, which are placed on a page by a human, the ads that appear in that particular online spot are sometimes generated by an algorithm based on someone’s recent online searches. I say “sometimes,” because if we have sold that position ourselves, our ad will appear there. The reader noted that she’d never even watched the show, much less searched for it. I responded that chances are good that she had searched earlier for something entertainment related and based on her geography and past search, the system thought she’d be interested in that particular show.

If I understood how such algorithms worked (or any algorithms for that matter -- I had to look up the spelling) my salary would be much higher. My hope is that as the systems continue to evolve, that is something that will eventually be taken into consideration.

I hate that such an inappropriate ad appeared for this reader, but I’m glad she pointed it out, which gives me the opportunity to tell you what I know about why such a thing occurred, and why only some people would have seen it.

Great work

One of my stops on the road recently was a meeting of leaders from all of the McClatchy newspapers, and it served to remind me that I work with a lot of creative, driven and passionate people in all divisions of our company.

More to come on this, but one overriding theme at this year’s meeting was continuing to participate in our communities, improve the quality of our journalism and capture the opportunities presented by technology to tell the stories of our cities and towns in different, compelling ways.

Recently, The Sun News provided a chance for those not lucky enough to be at the annual Scripps-Howard spelling bee, which we sponsor, to watch their grandkids, nieces and nephews compete in real time during a live stream of the competition.

We also launched a brand new website, www.gotoMyrtleBeach.com, and if you haven’t checked it out, liked it on Facebook and mentioned it to all your out-of-town friends and relatives, you’re missing out.

The site aims to provide information on everywhere you can stay, and all there is to see, do and eat here. Unlike other tourism sites, the listings aim to be all-inclusive. In other words, the locations don’t pay to be included in a basic listing. Plus, it provides a way for you to rate the spots you’ve visited, and is home to a group of “local experts” who can answer questions about the area.

We’re sure you love having all your friends and relatives come and stay with you, but just in case your house gets oversold, it can provide ideas of other places for visitors.

Check it out and share thoughts with Todd Garvin at tgarvin@thesunnews.com.

We hope to hear from you soon. And thanks for reading us, at any of our sites.

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