Honestly, I don’t understand newspapers who present their stories online as if they were publishing them on a printed page. It’s not just that lack of subheads in a 37-inch long story that frustrates me; it’s the complete ignorance of any web tools that could enhance story presentation and increase the amount of time readers spend on the site.
Sadly, far too many newspapers continue to treat their websites as simply the online version of their printed papers. I thought that it was widely understood at this point that you will never grow your online audience if all your do is reprint only what is in your daily newspaper.
“There has been an increase in the number of mothers arrested for driving while intoxicated with children in the car, said Bob Watson, supervising probation officer for Westchester County’s DWI enforcement unit. He said that more mothers than fathers are on probation for the offense.”
I would say that this is an important story that deserves attention. So lets look at how it was presented.
To begin with, the article comes in at 1,164 words or 31.45-inches (using the 37-words-per-column-inch equation). While that is not a huge story (a front-page New York Times story on presidential campaign fundraising comes in 600 words longer), it is not a quick read.
My immediate thought is that the story does needs subheads. During my initial read, I counted four places where subheads could have been used to help the reader navigate the story and to emphasize key points.
In addition to those two points, the story lacks any outbound links. I counted nearly a dozen instances where links to external sites could have enhanced the story including:
Perhaps even more important then outbound links, the story has no internal links. Given that the reporter cited about 10 recent cases, I would believe that the newspaper has written about more then just a few of them. And actually a look through their (paid) archives saw at least 20 links to just one of those cases.
And finally, along the same line, additional photos from previous stories.
I would argue that these suggestions only scratch the surface. An argument could have also been made, for example, for a video or audio-only interview(s) or even the inclusion of a poll.
Lohud is not alone, visit newspaper websites across the country, and you’ll find many similar examples of sites failing to engage readers. It’s a problem, I would offer, that has an easy fix. This is the type of issue that needs to be consciously built into the workflow, one possibility is to even make it the responsibility of one or a few people.
Don’t think that you can make all of the changes to add all the components I’ve suggested? Well, start by picking just one, perhaps previous stories and once you’ve got that a regular part of the process, add another.
No matter what you decide, don’t just offer the same old; that’s a mistake you might find you won’t be able to make for much longer.