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With a new look, Inforum website combines Forum, WDAY news efforts to better serve audience

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A mock-up of what the new inforum.com website will look like when it launches Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. Special to The Forum2 / 7
The new inforum.com logo. Special to The Forum3 / 7
Bill Marcil Jr., chief executive officer for Forum Communications Co.4 / 7
Joshua Rohrer, WDAY general manager5 / 7
Mary Jo Hotzler, The Forum building Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor6 / 7
Matt Von Pinnon, editor-in-chief for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead7 / 7

FARGO — A new website launches Tuesday, Oct. 23, to combine the newsrooms of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, WDAY-TV and 970 WDAY, providing a one-stop shop online.

Forum Communications Co., a family-owned media company based in Fargo, N.D., aims to provide audience members with award-winning local journalism and other exclusive content.

Along with a fresh, sleek look, the new website combines the news gathering from each outlet into one online entity, which will use the inforum.com domain. Previously, The Forum and WDAY each had their own distinct digital presence online.

"The uniting of The Forum and WDAY content on one site allows us to deliver much more trusted, locally focused news in a convenient one-stop shop for our readers," said Matt Von Pinnon, editor-in-chief of The Forum.

Josh Rohrer, WDAY general manager, echoed Von Pinnon's comments regarding the online merger.

"The broadcast team at WDAY is excited to expand our digital presence in an ever-evolving media landscape," Rohrer said. "Combining our resources in the digital space gives our viewers, listeners and readers the opportunity for a richer, more in-depth experience."

The launch of a new website begins a new chapter in the 140-year history of the storied local media company, which has established both a trustworthy foundation in its community and a rich tradition of quality journalism.

A hybrid name

Originally founded in 1878, Forum Communications began as a semi-weekly newspaper known as "The Republican," founded by Major A.W. Edwards and H.B. Hall. On Nov. 17, 1891, The Fargo Forum was founded, and was later purchased in 1917 by N.B. Black, whose family still owns the The Forum newspaper today.

In 1935, The Fargo Forum began expanding beyond newspapers, purchasing 49 percent of WDAY, Inc., which included both radio and television. The remaining 51 percent of WDAY was eventually purchased in 1958, forming the only locally owned newspaper, television and radio company in the area.

Beginning in 1980, Forum Communications began to drastically expand its footprint, eventually acquiring 35 weekly and daily newspapers in four states by 2006, including the Grand Forks Herald and the Duluth News Tribune.

During that time, Forum Communications also launched one of the country's first multimedia news websites, inforum.com, in 1997.

The origins of the "inforum" name stemmed from a group of managers locking themselves in a room, said Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of The Forum.

"As we were progressing with the plans of the original website, we really needed a name and said, 'Let's lock everyone in a room and decide this thing,'" Marcil Jr. said.

After the name "inforum" was thrown out by a former WDAY news director, Marcil Jr. said, the group looked around at each other in agreement and the name was born.

Worried the name was too close to the name of The Forum newspaper, the name was always designed to be a hybrid between both newsrooms.

"We are Forum Communications company," Marcil Jr. said. "So it was not wday.com and not theforum.com, not newspaper, not TV, but a hybrid."

More flexibility

As the current inforum.com website approaches its 22nd year of existence, many of the unique and first-of-its-kind features it was once known for are now simply outdated.

"I think our site needed an update, our tech needed an update," said Marcil Jr. "So we teamed with the best new content management system company in the world."

To create the new site, Forum Communications teamed up with European-based software company Escenic AS, whose state-of-the-art CUE content management system is used by newspapers around the world.

CUE is a flexible content creation platform developed for the constantly changing media environment, and allows the company to adapt and experiment with new, evolving media forms quickly and easily.

The platform also allows Forum Communications to expand into serving its consumers multiple varieties of content including live events, podcasts and video.

"In today's age, people expect content instantly from any device, and that's what our new site will provide," Marcil Jr. said.

Those familiar with WDAY's website will still find the domain online, but also is undergoing a change. The wday.com site will feature programming, special promotions, personality information and latest headlines linking to inforum.com.

Responding to audience

To prepare for the launch of the new website, Forum Communications surveyed hundreds of consumers, both print and digital, to get a better understanding as to what types of content they'd like to see expanded upon.

Among those types of content included sports, outdoors, investigative journalism and weather.

"We will still cover the important news readers expect, but we also plan to go deeper into more important and complex issues that people won't read about anywhere else," said Mary Jo Hotzler, chief content officer of Forum Communications. "We'll do more investigative work and we'll offer more speciality content in the areas that readers have told us they are interested in."

At its core, Marcil Jr. said, the new website was developed with consumers' best interests in mind, adding the site will incorporate more of the features that people have shown they care about.

"We are reinvesting in content and our digital audience will notice a substantial difference," Marcil Jr. said. "Not only in the amount and quality of content available, but in how easy it is to discover that content."

For Von Pinnon, he said the mergers of WDAY and The Forum have allowed both newsrooms to expand resources by not overlapping on stories, and provide more news that matters most in the community.

"Our audience will be getting more news and information from two trusted, locally driven newsrooms in one convenient place," Von Pinnon said. "We are excited to unite our newsrooms and give our audience the most news from the only locally owned media company in our area."

Ross Torgerson

Digital Reporter for Forum Communications. Native of Moorhead, Minn. Have a question or story idea? Email me at rtorgerson@forumcomm.com. Follow me on Twitter @RossTorgerson

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