A new, enhanced version of The Meridian Star’s Web site debuts today at www.meridianstar.com.

Rebecca Taylor, Internet specialist for the Star, said the new site is designed to be a one-stop information source for readers.

“The biggest difference is the amount of content — the fact that we are including both state and national news,” she said. “We’re including online yellow pages, which is a search directory. We’re trying to provide services so that viewers don’t need to leave our site to go someplace else.

“One of the biggest examples of this is national news. Because we have an Associated Press feed continually throughout the day, there’s no need to close our site and go to CNN.com. We also have a live weather feed in the upper right corner so that people don’t have to go to other weather sites.”

The new site will better accommodate local breaking news as a complement to the Star’s daily print edition.

“It’s really a change in culture,” Taylor said, referring to the 24-hour news cycle on which media outlets now operate. “On the Web, we’re not constrained by traditional press times. It’s just using the tool the way it’s intended to be used.”

Enhanced advertising is another feature of the new site.

“The advertising is more premier placement,” Taylor said. “There are larger in-story ads. They are embedded in the page. They are not pop-ups, so they can’t be blocked. We’re making the ads more interactive and engaging so that the viewers are drawn to them. Also, with the premier ad space, it’s leaving the Web site looking much cleaner. And the ad is getting more visibility.”

Viewers will be able to access a week’s worth of Classified ads on the new site, and more services will be available to print subscribers, including the ability to start a subscription or temporarily stop delivery when going on vacation.

Replacing the “Guestbook” feature on the old Web site will be online forums — “where readers can go on and have virtual conversations with one another and interact about hot topics,” Taylor said.

She said the site’s heaviest traffic is weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., meaning that “people are making it part of their daily ritual at work.”

For more information about www.meridianstar.com, contact Taylor at rtaylor@themeridianstar.com.

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