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Relaunch sets stage for tiered access to ‘Nation’s Restaurant News’ NRN.com

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The relaunch of NRN.com, the website for Lebhar-Friedman’s Nation’s Restaurant News, provides a better experience for the audience and gives NRN’s non-IT staff more flexibility and greater control due to a new Drupal content management system. The redesign also lays the groundwork for a soon-to-be implemented system that will limit the viewing of magazine content, online and in print, to paid subscribers.

NRN maintained a paid print circulation even as most b-to-b magazines switched to controlled circulation over the years, but, like most business media sites, NRN.com provided open access online to magazine content, along with original, Web-only stories.

“We have a paid-circulation magazine, which is very important to our positioning in the market,” said Chris Keating, associate publisher. “Giving away our content for free on the Web is not a tenable long-term position, but we needed a CMS that would allow us to lock down print content. Now we have the capability.” The fine points of the implementation are still being worked out, but Keating said he expects to roll it out within a few weeks.

“We don’t think we’re going to get rich selling online subscriptions,” he said. “This strategy supports our total media story that our print content is unique and has value.”

Nonetheless, reserving magazine content for subscribers is designed to shore up NRN’s circulation revenue stream. “We have about 50,000 paid subscribers,” Keating said. “That number is certainly down, partly because the foodservice industry is not as big as it was a few years ago, but also because the content is free online. We survey our readers when they give up their subscriptions and the No. 1 reason they give is, ‘I can get it online.’ ”

At the same time, NRN’s open-access online content will be expanded to showcase the original reporting capabilities of NRN’s relatively large staff of 15 full-time editors and reporters. In addition to technology that enables blogging and commenting, as well as Twitter feeds and a direct link to Facebook, the editors now have capabilities they never had before to create video content.

“We have reporters spread across the country, and they’re starting to jump into video, even though it’s a new skill for most print journalists,” said Sarah Lockyer, NRN.com’s executive editor. “We’ve only had the new site up a couple of weeks and we already have three original videos. I think that’s great. We have a reporter headed to the Gulf Coast to do a video series on the effect of the oil spill on restaurants.”

NRN has three editors dedicated to the website, led by Lockyer, who said the new CMS brings the website to a new level. “The redesign is a big change, with a bolder color scheme, an increased use of images and greater capabilities for multimedia content,” she said. The home page is now anchored by a rotating carousel on the upper-right-hand corner that showcases three top stories.

“Behind the scenes, our content is much more organized, and that is supported by a new navigation plan,” Locker added. “Our search function is much improved; it’s state-of-the-art.”

In related news, NRN and the National Restaurant Association have released details of their multiyear partnership, which was announced last month at the NRA Show in Chicago.

The NRA and NRN said they will create and distribute NRA-branded print and online information, including a new NRA edition of the NRN a.m. e-newsletter. The e-newsletter will be aimed at NRA members. Additionally there will be an “NRA Insights” page in the print edition of NRN.

“NRN is proud to formalize our longstanding relationship with the NRA and strengthen our ability to serve its members,” NRN Publisher Randall Friedman said in a statement.

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