Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Newspaper Web Sites

If your house needed a major overhaul to update date it and reduce costs would you just paint and wallpaper it and leave it at that? I wouldn't and neither would you so why do newspapers do it? Time and time and time again I see newspapers revamp their website only to basically rearrange the furniture and paint it. Whoopee! What's really needed is a major overhaul.

The Hamilton Spectator did an article and a video on the Friday the 13th motorcycle rally at Port Dover in August. The video just showed motorcycles passing by on a highway. There was nothing special about it. There was no voice-over to tell you why it was important. The short article basically said it's Friday the 13th and motorcyclists from around Ontario and parts of the United States are once again gathering in Port Dover. Where was the link to the history of the event? It didn't provide an answer as to what they do there or the impact of the event on the community.

Again with the Spectator, they've done several articles on the proposed light rail line. (Light rail is something I have a great interest in.) There was no map, no table showing cost comparisons and no intereactive graphics so you could see the potential impact of light rail in various locations. It just lay flat.

And it's not just the Hamilton Spectator that does this sort of thing. Take a look at any major newspaper in Canada or the United States and you see the same thing. The Buffalo News, for example, recently revamped its web site and, like the Spectator, basically just did window dressing. The basic problem remains. The smaller papers are far worse. Their design screams out that they don't care. At least with the big papers they're making some effort to care.

Ironically newspapers were among the earliest businesses to embrace the Net, but they have failed to grasp that, unlike print, the Net is multi-dimensional. Unless they learn that before it's too late, the newspaper industry will likely go the way of the horse and buggy. That's a shame because we need a healthy newspaper industry.

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