Raleigh, N.C. – Good morning, and welcome to the new-look WRAL Local Tech Wire.

I hope you are pleasantly surprised by what you see.

LTW certainly looks much different than it did on Dec. 14. As LTW nears its fifth anniversary of operation, its management decided the time had come to perform some major remodeling. Gutting is more like it.

The new LTW is launching at the same time as the new WRAL.com. Fortunately, you will see many similarities since WRAL.com is one of the most popular media Web sites in the country and is getting even better.

LTW has never been cutting edge in terms of technology. With the resources of the Capitol Broadcasting Company’s New Media Group and WRAL.com readily available, however, the new LTW is adding new features not supported before and is preparing to add more in the near future.

Since its launch during the “dot com” nuclear winter of January 2002, LTW has focused on content – i.e. written stories from the shortest of briefs to in-depth features, exclusives, profiles and interviews. That strategy produced a readership that reaches around the globe. Over the past year since LTW was acquired from its Charlotte founders by CBC New Media Group, the Web site’s editors have moved aggressively to incorporate more images, graphics, and fact boxes.

Other tools are available as of today, such as “reader ratings” and reader feedback.

A greatly improved search engine soon will provide readers with their best access yet to a database that now numbers more than 15,000 stories.

The appearance of the LTW “front page” has changed dramatically, as you can see. A simpler package enables the display of a photo or graphic each day to accompany the top story.

Other content is grouped by category, such as Venture and Biotech/Life Science, so readers can more easily find stories of particular interest.

“The Skinny” will become a daily feature rather than occasional. And as you see at the bottom, there are links to the most recent postings.

LTW also will soon take advantage of features incorporated into the WRAL.com Web site, including video and audio feeds. Look for packages starting early in the new year that combine interviews both online and with video – and maybe a podcast or two.

One of LTW’s most popular features – the “First Edition” delivered each business day at 8 a.m. via an email blast – also has been redesigned. The update, which includes the top headlines and summaries from the previous 24 hours, more closely resembles the front page of the Web site.

Unfortunately, one feature is being set aside for the time being – the events calendar. It may be revived in a new format in the near future.

By making the site more visually appealing and interactive, the new LTW site should be more fulfilling as a news source.

However, the most important feature of LTW remains its locally produced content with stories covering high tech, venture capital, life science, entrepreneurship and interesting people from across the Carolinas and Georgia. The additional resources now available to LTW will enable the site to offer meaningful content in other ways – from video interviews to photo slide shows/stories and much, much more.

Feel free to send me your thoughts about what you are seeing and reading. How can LTW do a better job of meeting your needs and wants as readers? What features would you like to see added? What content?

Let us hear from you. We are making the site more interactive so that your voices can be heard better than before.


Note: Rick Smith is the editor and general manager of WRAL Local Tech Wire and one of its co-founders.