Dog: It's the No. 1 word readers searched on Star's website

Dateline: Thu 06 Sep 2007

Me and my big mouth. I recently yowled at Gannett for its decision to devote resources to online features like IndyPaws, rather than beef up news coverage. My old-fashioned idea? Hire reporters. Publish stories.

But doggone it, there are two sides to every issue. Even one this seemingly petty.

Kathleen Moore, the Gannett marketing/sales employee in charge of IndyPaws, says so. She gave me the OK to publish her defense of IndyPaws.

Here is what Kathleen says:

"Ruth:

I've never met you, but you did a pretty good job recently of slamming my job at the Star. I just wanted to point out a few things to you and unfortunately was not able to comment via your blog.

"First off, IndyPaws (and IndyMoms and InTake, etc.) was never meant to be a news site. There are people (believe it or not) who are interested in things other than politics, property taxes, and Peyton. This is something I often have to remind my husband of, but you must know its true. Features have a place in our everyday information-gathering as heartful people. I know this because of the droves of people we've seen using the site, as well as the other 'feature' sites of the Star. Do you know that for the longest time the #1 'search' term on the Star's website was "dog"?

"For your own information, there are more people (63%) who have pets than who have children. In fact, I'm quite sure that pets take the place of children for many people. Yes, they get quite...well...nauseating! at

times the way they speak about their pets, but they can't control their

passion and its pretty real for them. We give them that forum to talk/brag to other pet lovers. We also give them (and they share)

valuable information about training, nutrition, medical issues, problems

they might be experiencing, and even light news of the pet world.

I have had countless comments from people who have adopted pets, found lost pets, picked up valuable information, and been inspired to volunteer through the site.

We also managed to get Proctor & Gamble to send cases of supplies to a local shelter after they'd been burglarized. And we drew record crowds to another shelter's adoption day in Greenwood last weekend. And we help the 2 largest Marion County shelters on a daily basis by sending click-thru traffic to their adoption sites.

"Here are some other factoids for you; IndyPaws has 3050 registered users, representing over 9000 dogs and 2500 cats + 500 'others'. Daily page views average around 20-25,000!

"So, please understand that though you may not personally enjoy a website about pets, there are plenty of people who do...thank goodness! because it has turned out to be a pretty great job for me. Lucky me; I get to marry my sales and marketing skills with my love of animals and still feel like I am offering a service to the community."

As I told Kathleen, I get it, sort of. OK, I admit -- I look at the back of the Living section of Monday Star, when IndyPaws is center stage. I glance at the photos of cute pooches sent in by devoted "moms" and "dads" and marvel at the nicknames people give cats and dogs, like Fluffybottoms. I am amazed that someone has a hedgehog in their home. I snirk at the pet peeves: "Mom makes me take baths."

But I don't have a job. So I have lots of time to wonder at Gannett's strategy -- trying to sell newspapers with such fluffybottoms instead of going deeper.

Is shameless anthromorphism really a goal a solid newspaper would put its back behind? Would IndyPaws litter the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago dailies?

And no, I have never been so desperate as to go online to read IndyPaws. But plenty of people do, Kathleen points out. So maybe we are getting the newspaper we deserve.

At any rate, we are getting the paper Gannett thinks we should have.

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