Problem: We have at least 100 "Draw Your Dad" submissions for readers and no way to get them in the paper or online with existing staff and software.
First obvious solution: Purchase Adobe Photoshop CS at $499 each for seven locations, total cost of $3,500 plus training for clerks. Add web staff from redeployed newsroom people to upload and position slideshows.
Alternative solution: Use free software and server space from outside sources built for individuals and small independents to accomplish the same goal.
Avoid adding another clog in our existing production pipe. Use a different pipe, with a different destination, and link from our website to that different destination. Use the paper to direct readers first through our website, with one image each on regional pages, then link from there to Flickr. We don't need to save these images in our servers. Don't worry about the loss of hits to the website. More on that later.
Specifics: Use Flickr (free), Picasa (free) and gmail (free) to email and resize the images for Flickr. Cutlines (metadata) can be edited before uploading. Captions show up on top of the images if the viewer clicks on the "I" in a slideshow. See advice on the Internet to find out how to upload easily. Use one existing photo-savvy clerk reporter like Lukas or one Flickr-savvy copy editor like Adam to do the work, over two days, max. Make sure the scanning is spread out over several locations, and make sure there's one networked place where all those images can be gathered.
If the space limitations of a free Flickr account are too small, spring for one $24.95 Pro account for the whole newsroom.
But again, what about web traffic? Isn't that why we're encouraging reader interaction? What happens when the hits go to some outside company instead of us?
We direct readers from the regular newspaper to regional webpages to find the slideshows. We use one image on those pages as a visual refer. From there, we use a direct link to the specific set at Flickr, so it's only two clicks for readers.
TV stations regularly send viewers to their websites to get links to outside information. We can too.
Readers do not have to create an account or come up with another password to see the slideshow at Flickr. If they want to comment, that's when they have to sign in.
Yes, Flickr gets the page views and not our website ... but we preserve and build our relationship with loyal readers. We brand our presence at Flickr and broaden our audience. And consider the alternative: no slideshows or hits at all.