editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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Don’t let your website get lapped

December 18th, 2007 · 4 Comments

At too many newspaper websites, there is an all or nothing approach to innovation and change. I am frequently told “we’re going through a redesign” or “we’re getting a new CMS” as just some of the justifications for current site problems or sub-par functionality. But is that really the best approach?

Many newsrooms leaders are familiar with the term “incremental improvements.” It is frequently used as part of company-wide Continuous Improvement programs, but is just as applicable in team building and reporter coaching. Incremental improvements are the buildings blocks of change necessary to achieve something great. It is a realistic approach to change and just as importantly, it describes a process.

But for some reason, once we move to the online operation, incremental is seemingly replaced with all or nothing. While one can argue that there still is a process, it’s one that withholds change until some magical moment, until that redesign is complete or that CMS is installed. This approach I believe is a big mistake.

To a degree, my approach can be explained this way:

If it’s broken, fix it.
If it’s missing, replace it.
And if it’s needed, add it.

I know, I know, you’re saying “over simplification”! While theoretically you might be right, there is more to my message then those three simple phrases. What I want you to understand is that change online happens fast. That great redesign that your team developed six months ago has a risk of being outdated and lacking by the time you roll it out. Your readers may get so frustrated with missing and poor functionality that you find they’ve moved on before you’ve had a chance to launch that CMS.

Not all changes or improvements require a team analysis. Not all changes or improvements require complex developer skills. And not all changes or improvements require you to wait.

If you’re looking to add some social networking opportunities, add them. Many sites, such as Digg, StumbleUpon or Mixx have made this step easy for you. If it’s a problem of poor functionality and you feel it’s beyond your reach, remember that you’re part of a larger community (we’re all in the same relative boat) and reach out. I’ve benefited from the guidance and assistance from folks at other newspaper companies and I’ve done what I can when called on.

But no matter what you do, don’t just sit there. Don’t leave your site broken or lacking. And if there’s anything I can do, feel free to ask.

Tags: Best Practices · Industry · Innovation · Online

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Unexpected, but valuable, career advice | editor on the verge // Dec 18, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    […] was commenting on my “Don’t let your website get lapped,” post and drew the connection between NASCAR and newspaper websites. He observed that the […]

  • 2 links for 2007-12-19 : William M. Hartnett // Dec 19, 2007 at 5:22 am

    […] Don’t let your website get lapped – editor on the verge “At too many newspaper websites, there is an all or nothing approach to innovation and change. … But is that really the best approach?” (tags: newspaper.com innovation) […]

  • 3 Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Wednesday squibs // Dec 20, 2007 at 1:26 am

    […] Don’t let your website get lapped. Yoni Greenbaum says taking the web seriously means making incremental improvements and additions as you go, not waiting for the big redesign or new tech rollout. […]

  • 4 Ryan Mercer // Dec 22, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I’ve notice many photo departments are forging ahead with multimedia programs and posting far more photo gallery content. The only problem with many of them is that you’ll never find this content because their websites aren’t easy to navigate. Don’t be afraid to engage your online editors and suggest how and more importantly WHERE your photo staff’s hard work is posted. I think you’ll find them eager to promote better content, especially if it drives traffic. It doesn’t require any heavy lifting as far as site design. If they’re not interested, get other editors involved in the discussion, but push, push, push. Don’t just sit back and let that content get burried deep in the site.

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