Vol. 23, No. 3/Spring 2001
See images of the Research Center's homepage:
How and when was the intranet launched?
The Time Inc. corporate intranet, Time Traveler, launched in the fall of 1996. It was (and is) designed and maintained by the Advanced Technologies Group for Time Inc. Our Research Center homepage launched in February 1997. We house our web products on our own server, which gives us a bit more flexibility in updating and maintenance. So, while we sit within the structure of the corporate intranet, all of our sites maintain their own look and feel, with simple links back to Time Traveler.
Who produces the Research Center’s homepage?
The Research Center homepage has evolved over the years, and is now just one of the many web sites and products that the Research Center Web Productions team creates and maintains. The Web Productions team is comprised of a Technical Lead, Production Designer, and Content Coordinator. All of the Research Center staff – research librarians, database enhancers, administrative and clerical staff – contribute to the development of our web products. We typically like to appoint a "lead" to every project or web page, which helps both in developing leadership and team building skills. It has also enabled us to produce some great web pages.
The most important thing we learned: our success is completely dependent on the participation of each and every Research Center staff member. This includes people who know how to search the web, people who know how to write, those who know a little HTML, those who understand cataloging and indexing, staffers with particular subject expertise, generalists who develop resources on any topic, someone who can manage projects, a person who can edit, someone who makes airtight schedules, one with a good design eye and one who writes clean code. It took us all, working together, to get it right.
Is the intranet a newsroom-only intranet or part of a corporate intranet?
Corporate behemoth intranet. Over the years we’ve formed alliances and relationships with our colleagues who control corporate intranets throughout AOLTW, and we meet regularly to swap ideas and to collaborate on projects. We’ve also negotiated arrangements of mutual benefits to all involved: we regularly produce colorful promotionals for our web products that are regularly posted on their intranets. The "ads" give us a boost in traffic to our pages, and they also help liven up the sites they run on, guiding other users to our resources. We’ve also developed content for some of our colleague’s web sites and have consulted on a number of different web projects, including those for Time Inc. HR, Time Warner Print Shop, Time Inc. Finance Division and the Time Inc. and TW corporate intranets.
Our expertise is in content development, information architecture and usability. While we do have a small production staff, the bulk of our skill set lies in our ability to organize information in ways that make it easy for people to use. That means we spend a considerable amount of time talking to people, evaluating resources, categorizing information, constructing intuitive interfaces and producing targeted web pages for particular audiences. As research professionals, this is a particular skill we bring to the table, and one that beautifully complements the technical expertise of our colleagues who run the back-end. Our role is in making the right information available to the right people in a way that makes the most sense to them.
Describe the news library’s role in the development and maintenance of the intranet.
The Research Center staff has been instrumental in proselytizing the importance of the web and in encouraging the efficient and sensible use of desktop web resources. In our daily dealings with clients, we consistently recommend particular web sites for them to use, as appropriate. We’ve also collaborated with the Time Inc. advanced technology group and use their training rooms to conduct classes for all interested Time Inc. staff in topics such as: web search engines, mining internal resources, finding biographical information, etc.
What areas of the intranet do reporters and editors find most useful?
One of the most popular resources we’ve developed is something we call InfoDesk, which is, in part, a collection of approximately 22 premium web based resources smartly categorized. It also includes quick tips for searching particular products, full-length guides to aid in precision searching and short descriptions of every resource. Beyond the savings we’ve afforded our clients by negotiating enterprise-wide accounts to these resources, we’ve also given them one easy place to go to for quality information found on the web and targeted tips on how to use it smartly.
We conduct basic and in-depth training on InfoDesk and its resources, and also serve as ‘help-desk’ professionals, making us available to assist in a search or to simply guide someone to the most appropriate resource. The reporters, editors and writers all love the fact that they can do their own research on reliable sources at the desktop, and it has given our professional staff more time to conduct in-depth research on their behalf. Many of our corporate clients (Strategic Planning, Ad Sales, Consumer Marketing, etc.,) also consider InfoDesk a valuable resource.
A basic InfoDesk subscription includes a number of Gale’s products, Facts on File, ProQuest, Hoovers, Current Biography and Books in Print among others. It also includes access to the full text, searchable database of 20 Time Inc. titles which is produced and maintained by the Research Center, and some other homemade databases as well. Premium InfoDesk may also include individual subscriptions to Factiva and/or Nexis.com.
We’ve also developed customized sites for the editorial staffs of Time and Fortune magazine, which consist primarily of smartly organized links to pertinent web sites of interest.
How has the intranet changed the way people in your newsroom perform their daily jobs?
It has made research at the desktop possible. The old CD-ROM networks were useful up to a point, but certainly they never carried the power of being able both to reach a far-flung audience and to customize the research that particular audience was getting. Pretty powerful stuff. Email, of course, has also been of enormous use. Beyond giving us the ability to deliver research electronically, we also have dialog boxes on all our editorial web sites, giving people the ability to communicate with us when we’re not here.
We’re also actively developing content for the web editions of our print publications – again, another natural transition for research professionals, and a perfect compliment to our journalist colleagues. Typically we provide annotated quick links on the topic, links to relevant Time Inc. articles available on the web and bulleted statistics, facts of interest or contact information.
What insights would you share with someone developing an intranet?
It’s essential and great fun. Never stop marketing it, always keep it fresh.
To read more about Time’s Intranet, see "Time Inc.’s Strategic Asset," Library Journal, November 15, 1999.
If you would like to spotlight your newsroom's intranet in the next News Library News, please contact Jalyn Kelley at email@example.com. Jalyn Kelley is a researcher at CSC Consulting.