editor on the verge

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

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Redesign faux pas can turn off readers

February 18th, 2008 · 1 Comment

One of my former newspapers, a Gannett owned publication in Cherry Hill, NJ, recently unveiled it’s redesign. While it appears very similar to the Pluck-based redesigns released by other Gannett newspapers, I’m finding something a bit distracting.

Maybe it’s me, what I can’t get past is all the “Summary text. Summary text. Summary text” and “This article is of the test phylum” and “test image.” Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite, the dreaded “The page could not be found (404).” That’s right, the site is littered with dummy or boiler-plate text and broken links. And what makes it even worse, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Now I fully understand everything that goes into a relaunch, but really, I wish the Courier-Post would have taken the time before they threw the switch to make sure that everything was where it should be and that they had removed everything that should be removed.

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→ 1 CommentTags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Design · Online

Do page numbers matter online?

February 17th, 2008 · No Comments

While working on a previous post I came across a feature that made me say “huh, that’s neat.”

Long ago I stopped, for the most part, reading newspapers in print. It was a combination of my schedule and my focus that drove me online. But one of the aspects that I missed from print was not the dirty fingers, but story play. Online, you don’t know if a story ran on page six or page 64. You don’t know if was a section cover or just one of a number of stories tossed onto open pages. While in the overall scheme of things that may not matter, I often find myself wondering where a story was played?

So, I was wandering through the San Francisco Chronicle online and while reading a story about high-end home sales, I noticed at the bottom of the story the following line:

This article appeared on page C – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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→ No CommentsTags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Carnival of Journalism · Online

Does your newspaper hide from its readers?

February 16th, 2008 · 3 Comments

I recently wanted to get in touch with a former colleague, but when I visited his newspaper’s website I quickly discovered that reaching anyone at his newspaper wouldn’t be that simple. And his newspaper is not alone. If we’re in the communication business, why do we make it so difficult for people to communicate with us?

To be fair, this used to be a much broader problem. Thankfully though, in recent years, some newspapers print email addresses for reporters at the bottom of stories and others use online forms. Some don’t do either and even make it hard to directly contact anyone, hoping instead to channel all interactions through a series of general forms.

In order to get a sense of the practices that are going on in the industry, I looked at the contact practices of the top 30 newspapers according to the most recent Nielsen Online report, and here’s what I found:

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→ 3 CommentsTags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Carnival of Journalism · Editors · Industry · Online · Reporting · Traffic

Don’t let bad content decisions take the wind out of your sails

February 15th, 2008 · No Comments

How fast can you turn your ship?

When I look at many newspaper websites, I just can’t help but wonder why some stories are in a featured homepage slot and, even more so, why they remain there for so long.

I recognize that every market has it’s own issues and what is a popular story in say North Jersey, might not work in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So while I sometimes wonder if “Gardening to Extremes” deserves top billing, I will ultimately bow to the taste judgment of local editors. But what I will question is why that and many other stories keep that top billing throughout the day?

Looking at a variety of sites I see a couple of patterns at work: There are sites that keeps their top stories in place until there is breaking news. There are the sites that rotate content based on the time of day. There are the sites that don’t change anything and even breaking news is only treated as an update. And then there are those that appear to take an approach that I think all sites should emulate. The producers and editors at these news sites let their audience guide them.

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→ No CommentsTags: Analytics · Best Practices · Data · Design · Industry · Metrics · Traffic