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KARK’s spiffy new website.

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The website of Little Rock NBC affiliate KARK Channel 4 has undergone a ground-up revamp. If Channel 4 can put its modem where its mouth is, it may soon have a big jump on the competition, not to mention one of the more innovative and user-friendly websites produced in the state.

The new website soft-launched on Monday, Dec. 4, at www.arkansasmatters.com, which www.kark.com now links to. It’s not the most attractive website around (a bit too log-jammed with thick red bars — move a colorful picture to the top, boys). But it offers a host of interesting bells and whistles, and promises more to come. Alongside tried-and-true items like live local radar, breaking news blurbs and full-motion video clips from recent broadcasts, the website features a “marketplace” tab that leads to free classified ads, online coupons and job listings. A separate “resources” area provides viewers with entertainment reminders, viewer photos and information on community events. On a linked advice page, the site is currently looking for doctors, lawyers and skilled people to contribute to a professional advice section of the website, where users can seek help with everything from diabetes to bankruptcy to plumbing woes.

In the “very, very near future,” says KARK station manager Rick Rogala, the station plans on rolling out more advanced website features. As early as next month, he said, registered visitors will be able to drag virtual items around on the KARK homepage and delete other items in order to make the site more useful to them — with the page “remembering” your preferences when you return. Though the features on the site are a bit clunky right now (I managed to drag the “Top Stories” window behind everything else, and now I can’t seem to get it out), Rogala said the station is working to make arkansasmattters.com a fully personalized “community portal” — a place where viewers can access news content, services, and information on all aspects of their lives.

“Let’s say you don’t care about job listings because you’re in a job you don’t want to get out of for awhile, so you can click X [to remove] that,” he said. “But you’re searching for a car, so you’ll pull ‘Cars’ above ‘Job Listings.’”

Rogala said that in the advice section of the page, local businesses will be able to create “micro-sites,” in exchange for an advertising fee. “As part of that,” Rogala said, “they get a two- to three-minute video vignette where they’ll offer some type of advice, they get a micro-site that explains who they are and what they do, and then there’s a forum “where the company can answer consumer questions.”

Soon, Rogala said, the site will feature free space for viewers to post their own videos, writings and resumes. “We’ve talked about blogging,” Rogala said. “You’ll see user-generated content be a big part of where we go next. We already have that with pictures, but I’m talking about user-generated video, user-generated stories. That will be something big that’s next.”

The “Arkansas Matters” brand will be exclusive to the website, and will not become a positioning statement for the station as a whole. Rogala said that while most television station websites focus on showcasing the station’s on-air talent and broadcast product, the idea behind the KARK website is to be something more useful to the viewer: a combination of helpful features, information and “e-commerce.” The goal, he said, is to bring timely information through both of the station’s available “portals” —television and internet.

“If you’re not innovating, if you’re not working to bring your customers greater depth, or you’re not working to bring them greater ease of use then you’re going to get stale,” he said.

Click, click, clickity-click.

david@arktimes.com

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