“Whoa! That rocks my world!”
“I’ve never seen anything like it before!”
“Let me see it again!”
These are some of the things you’ll hear coming from behind the restrooms on the third floor.
In February of 1996, Scott Horton took the job of creative director for a Web site that would publish The Daily Oklahoman to the world. At the time, no one knew much about the Internet, what it could be used for, or if it had a real future. The challenge was enormous with a large learning curve, and a teach-yourself environment where no real experts had yet emerged.
Horton found the prospect too exciting to pass up and joined the team of creative and talented people assigned a monumental task. The original charter group of Oklahoman.com was made up of Sue Hale, Marcia Peeler, Matt Jones, Bob “Speedy” Arrington, Don Fowler, Betty Jane Garrett, Matt Williamson, Scott DeWitte, and Horton.
The team worked around the clock for several months before the new site launched. Graphics had to be tested for their web compatibility and file sizes had to be dramatically reduced to allow for download on a 14.4k modem. Everything had to be linked together so that a reader could find what they wanted without getting lost.
After a couple of successful months of publishing The Oklahoman online, ConnectOK was born. This company focused on designing corporate Web sites the sales team brought in. Dynamic designs were created for Kerr McGee, Oklahoma Redhawks, the Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma Farmers Union, The Broadmoor Hotel, Oklahoma Christian University, Devon Energy, Communities Foundation of Oklahoma, several local hospitals, the UCLA Conference Center, Cingular Wireless, Head Country BBQ, The Oklahoma City Chamber, OG&E, and many others. Included were over 100 Oklahoma non-profit Web sites.
Fast-forward a decade and the excitement is the same. Of the original team of nine, only Horton remains. Web development has been replaced with a focus on being the best news and information Web site available, and servicing the needs of advertisers.
The Man Behind the Curtain
“My job is to provide a growth environment for the members of the creative team, Brian Mays and James Duncan. We share ideas, pass along knowledge, and encourage excellence. We focus on enhancing the overall graphic design of NewsOK.com. It is important for the structure to be consistent, the navigation to be user friendly, and the ads to be eye-catching and appealing. We also make a push to learn and maintain the strongest knowledge of the tools and programs used by our industry.
“We work with editorial to enhance the information and the experience of the reader beyond the print edition and NEWS 9’s broadcast. Some examples are the Oklahoma City Bombing anniversary, NCAA Basketball, Surviving the Storm with Gary England, Gimme the Mike, Survivor, Oklahoma’s Military Bases, Paycheck to Paycheck, Election coverage, The Fern Holland Story, and MAPS.” Horton said. Links to these sites can be found at http://www.newsok.com/news/continuingcoverage.
“The creative department also designs and helps maintain the Web sites for BOB FM, The KATT, KISS FM, WILD, The Sports Animal, and WKY.
We conceptualize for clients who may not have their own creative departments. We try to pitch concepts and new online products, and often act as a full-service multimedia creative department.”
Seven Heads are Better than One
The success of the creative department comes from the synergy of everyone working together at NewsOK and other departments within The Oklahoman. Every large project starts with a brainstorming session. Ideas are thrown around the room and each department and individual lends their unique perspective to improve the overall concept and end product.
For example, Mike Day and Stan Shadid approached NewsOK with a request to come up with something new and fresh to present to Best Buy. One of the ideas was an Mp3 player that floats inside the Internet browser. The player will be branded with Best Buy’s logo and feature local Oklahoma bands. “Best Buy loved it! They said it’s something new that no one has presented to them before.” said Shadid. NewsOK is hoping they’ll buy into the whole advertising package.
The creative department gives life to ideas, IT helps it work, and editorial keeps it fresh. Constantly pushing the envelope to maintain a leadership position requires strong collaborative efforts between the three departments.
Multimedia is “Multiple Media”
When The Oklahoman merged Web sites with NEWS 9, the creative department had to learn to compress and stream video. “Flash technology has morphed Mays and Duncan into part programmer, part designer. Their knowledge helps to integrate and take advantage of audio, video and animation throughout the site.” says Ron Carkier, Managing Editor.
“Devon Energy is one of those clients who bought into the creative concept that NewsOK’s team developed and wants it executed just as it was presented. That means NewsOK is designing and producing a print campaign, online ads, streaming video, web development, and television commercials.”
MP3, SWF, JPEG, GIF, FLV, MPEG, M4P… HUH?
Recent additions to NewsOK include interactive Flash photo galleries with narratives from Oklahoman journalist. Check out “An Adoption Story: A Child from China” (www.newsok.com/more/adoption/) and the Oklahoma City Bombing photo galleries (www.newsok.com/bombing).
Download NewsOK Podcasts and local band music. Play them on your iPod and listen to headlines wherever you are. Submit your vote to the interactive Flash poll.
View the improved NEWS 9 video, using Flash video technology. This lays the future foundation for users to build their own newscast, and opens the door to new advertising and revenue possiblities. And what’s that? iPods may play video in the future? NewsOK is on top of it.
The LOOK@OKC site, designed and maintained by James Duncan, has added blogging and music that appeals to the younger target market. This market demands cutting edge technology. “The LOOK@OKC site allows me to design for a more tightly focused market.” said Duncan. “LOOK@OKC helps us tap into our future – the Internet generation.”
Not the Last Word
The one thing the creative department knows for certain is things will continue to change. ”We are all constantly researching new products coming onto the market, watching what are competitors are doing, and looking for creative and innovative ideas. There are no limitations to what we are able to do. If you can dream it, we can make it happen.” says Mays.