When is an award-winning website still a really bad website? When it’s reviewed by John Temple, who gives the Arizona Daily Star site a resounding “FAIL” based on 18 criteria.
The Arizona Daily Star (azstarnet.com) had been recognized by the EPpy awards as the “best news Web site with fewer than 1 million unique monthly visitors.” But while that may make for good promotional copy, it doesn’t mean that readers — you know, the ones who are supposedly using and interacting with the site — are being offered a useful product.
Temple administers a test created by Mark Potts to determine how well azstarnet.com is serving the typical user. Again and again, from listings of the best restaurants to comprehensive coverage of local personalities, the site fails to measure up.
Its failure on the first three criteria, including “Without using search, find continuing, in-context coverage of a long-running local story” — underscores the usefulness of what Martin Langeveld (and I, as well) has been arguing for — wikifying the newsroom:
Wouldn’t it make sense to build all of the back story into a wiki on the topic, and to make it the responsibility of the reporter to update the wiki whenever something new happens? And once the wiki is created, why not make it available online, linked in the printed and online versions of the story, so a reader can get a summary of all the background the paper possesses, not just whatever the reporter considers relevant to the current story.
At the end of a separate post about attracting an online news audience, Langeveld emphasizes that communication, not design for its own sake, should be foremost on the mind of those who run news websites:
It’s not about how sexy-looking your site is. It’s not about having the absolute latest display technology. It’s about how you engage readers with conversations and with ways of interacting with news staffers and with each other.
Posted in hyperlocal, media criticism, news website, newspaper websites, Online journalism
Tagged Editor & Publisher, Martin Langeveld, newspaper websites, web design, web usability, John Temple, Arizona Daily Star, EPpy awards, wikify, azstarnet.com
Take about a minute and look at Mark Glaser’s 10 steps to saving newspapers in the digital age (via CyberJournalist). And then take note that the thread running through each of these steps isn’t about cutting costs as much as it is about being innovative in the effort to engage the local community.
Because I’m a good netizen, I won’t reprint the short post here and deprive CyberJournalist of the traffic, but I will say that Glaser is right on target in telling news sites to focus on what businesses want, rather than viewing them as an endless source of advertising dollars. And his recommendation to engage the community in face-to-face meetings recalls Gina Chen’s fine Save the Media post on how journalists can create communities of readers.
Posted in citizen journalism, civic journalism, hyperlocal, New Media, news industry, news website, Newspaper industry, newspaper websites, nonprofit journalism, Online communities, Online journalism
Tagged citizen journalism, CyberJournalist, Gina Chen, hyperlocal, Mark Glaser, MediaShift, New Media, news industry, newspaper websites, Online communities, Online journalism, Save the Media
UPDATE at the bottom
UPDATE II (June 8, 2009) — enabling the entrepreneurial journalist
Jeffrey Seglin, a professor who has written for the New York Times, makes the case that when writers write for free, they not only devalue their own work, they make it harder for others to receive compensation:
Your work has value. If you start giving it away for free, then it diminishes that value and makes it harder for others to charge for their work as well.
I think this is true. One need only spend a few moments perusing freelance writing job sites or surveying the payments correspondents are receiving from local pubs (online and print) to know just how little contributors are compensated.
Now, do I think it’s wrong for writers to contribute their work for free?
But do I agree that anyone other than a new writer looking to build a portfolio is — to use Seglin’s term — a “blockhead” if he or she writes for free?
Posted in blogging, news industry, news website, newspaper cutbacks, newspaper websites, newsroom layoffs, Online journalism
Tagged bloggers, foreign bureaus, foreign reporting, freelancers, freelancing, Jeffrey Seglin, journalists, Mainstream media, MediaShift, newspaper layoffs, Online Journalism Blog, True/Slant, unpaid contributors, writers
Today I discovered ESPN Local, which aggregates stories from across the Web, organizing them by sport. A quick survey of the site reveals that most of those sources are traditional, hometown newspapers.
Because I live in the Tampa Bay area, I first chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Local News, which brought up a page of stories from Tampabay.com (the St. Petersburg Times‘ site), TBO.com, Lakeland Ledger, WTSP-TV and Naples Daily News.
Major League Baseball is in season, so the Tampa Bay Rays page currently has an even more eclectic array of sources, including the Edmonton Sun, Kansas City Star, Bradenton Herald, TwinCities.com, Desert Sun, The Stuart News, MLB.com, The Oregonian, Fanball and Detroit News.
Each link includes both the headline and lede graf from each source. It seems like a win for both ESPN Local and the aggregated sites that get the benefit of ESPN Local’s traffic.
And the value for fans is clear: Instead of having to add umpteen sites to an RSS feed, they can go to one site that has already done the aggregation and see every story at a glance.