A User's Guide to the e-Monitor

Our online version of the paper has a brand new format and special features that make your visit both fun and informative

IF you've been putting off visiting the e-Monitor - the online version of this newspaper - wait no longer.

Finding your way around has just become easier, with a visual feature that corresponds to the familiar newspaper layout while offering all the benefits of an online information source.

"People familiar with the print Monitor will know exactly how to get around the e-Monitor site in 10 seconds," says Dave Creagh, electronic publishing manager. "A newspaper layout provides a way of evaluating what you're reading through a series of clues - headlines and graphics, as well as the story's position on a page. It telegraphs in a clear visual way what the editors intended. And that's one of the strong aspects of the Monitor's identity."

Now, when you call up the e-Monitor on your Web browser, you'll be greeted by a scaled-down replica of a Monitor page, complete with stories, headlines, and photos as they appear in that day's paper. With a simple series of clicks, you can read the full text of a story, respond in many cases to the writer by e-mail, tap into the archives, learn about related topics, or join a discussion group (see graphic, right).

Displaying a replica of the newspaper may seem like a retro idea in this cyber-hyper world, but it has a certain logic for individuals who may have ventured eagerly online only to be intimidated by the multitude of choices. The new-old look provides a sense of reassurance and stability from one format to the other. In fact, the e-Monitor is the first online daily newspaper in North America to adopt this visual approach, using technology from a company called Infosis in Market Weighton, England.

The e-Monitor is more than an online adjunct of the newspaper. The site is also home to exclusive features that deal directly with Internet topics and give a taste of what's in store for this technology. The "Today's Links" feature enhances a user's ability to explore stories and Web sites stemming from topics in that day's paper. In fact, according to online editor Tom Regan, the e-Monitor "does more original Web material than most other newspaper sites."

And while changes in the newspaper's design are rolled out over time, upgrades on the e-Monitor are happening continuously, as Web technology improves.

Join a Monitor forum

A visitor to the e-Monitor also enters a more thoughtful atmosphere than is sometimes found on the Internet, including an opportunity to participate in carefully monitored "forums." These forums allow people with similar interests to post their thoughts in a more civil alternative to some of the Web's ubiquitous "chat rooms."

So how do you make the most of these features? First, it helps to understand a little about how the thought process changes as you go from a traditional to an online newspaper.

In a newspaper, the information is arranged visually, with the editors prioritizing items and orchestrating the way your eye moves across the page. In the electronic text version, the information comes in layers, with greater capability for readers to explore and blaze their own trail through the news.

Let's say that you were reading a newspaper article on children's toys. You want to get a list of toys that have passed certain safety tests, or you want a list of manufacturers' phone numbers. The newspaper is a finite resource; only so much space is available for including additional information, so you may have to go to the library or seek other published materials to find answers. Now, if that same toy story is on e-Monitor, certain phrases might be highlighted on which you could click and call up additional stories and links to Web locations all over the world, such as the Toy Manufacturers of America site - www.toy-tma.com

Those highlighted words and phrases are called "hypertext." Instantly, through the technology of hypertext, you're connected to dozens, perhaps hundreds, of related sites.

Link to special selected sites

The "Today's Links" feature is compiled daily by Jim Regan, brother of Tom, from his home computer in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Two days ahead of publication, Jim receives abstracts of several news and feature stories scheduled to appear in the Monitor (12 to 18 stories). He plugs key words into various search engines, such as Yahoo!, looking for related Web sites, which he visits, assesses, and includes or discards for his list of "links."

Jim says because he regularly goes through 100 or more sites a day to find 40 or 50 useful ones, "serendipity plays a big role" in his searches. His selections are balanced to offer many perspectives on a topic, and, like any good Web adventure, they spin off into further journeys.

Elsewhere on the e-Monitor are a number of features not found in the print Monitor. Standouts include cyber "columns" by Ellen Berrigan and James Turner. Ellen periodically interviews Internet entrepreneurs for her "Web Women" column, and James examines facets of Web life and technology in "Under the Hood." In "E-mail From..." Monitor correspondents and other essayists around the world toss off observations from their vantage points. Under the category "Our Place," a feature called "Chapter One" lets readers peruse the first chapter of most books reviewed in the Monitor. An ongoing feature is called "Parenting in the '90s," where thoughtful parenting tips are traded and issues discussed.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to the e-Monitor, according to Tom Regan, is that "there's an emphasis on establishing a community of Monitor readers. The e-Monitor encourages a one-on-one relationship between writer and reader." Because the writer's e-mail address is often posted with the story, he or she can get immediate feedback. The reader gains a greater sense of investment in the newspaper.

Not to mention, a host of new readers get a taste of Monitor journalism online.

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