Bluffton Enters The Participation Age

by | Apr 24, 2005


A few weeks ago, a new newspaper started arriving at the house every morning. At first, I didn’t take much notice of it, but I gradually warmed up to it, and as I dug deeper and learned more, my jaw dropped. Why? Because Bluffton Today’s online version is a cutting edge experiment in newspaper publishing, happening right here under my nose in small town South Carolina.

Here’s what CBS Marketwatch has to say about it:

Morris Communications Corp. has begun publishing Bluffton Today, a tabloid newspaper tightly coordinated with a Web site, The hyperlocal publication will be distributed free in the namesake South Carolina community of about 15,000 people. Every reader will be invited to log onto the Web site and comment about stories, as well as start their own blog, upload pictures and even contribute recipes.

“Newspapers have gone on the Web by putting yesterday’s news online,” said Steve Yelvington, manager, Web site development for Morris. “That’s a one-way street. We are doing the opposite; Participation is right at the center of what we’re doing.”

He added: “ is a grand experiment in citizen journalism, a complete inversion of the typical ‘online newspaper’ model.”

Readers’ comments about stories will be edited and printed in the hard copy of the paper.

Success will be easy to judge, according to Yelvington. “People will be participating. The reality is people are doing this already, publishing their own Web sites and Web logs. The choice is not whether it will happen but whether we are going to participate in it.”

Still, I have to ask, “Why Bluffton?”

“Bluffton is one of the fastest-growing communities in the Southeast and is the perfect place to launch this new phase of newspaper and Web publishing,” said Morris Publishing Group President and CEO, William S. Morris IV. “We are proud to add Bluffton Today to the family of Morris newspapers.”

Morris Communication, based in Augusta, GA owns more than 30 daily and nondaily newspapers across the country, with total combined circulation in the range of 700,000. The company has a concentrated presence in the Southeast, with four signature holdings: The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), The Augusta Chronicle, the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News and the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald.