Thursday, March 1, 2012

I’m shocked. The local southern Ontario Sun Media
newspapers* have suddenly changed. They’re no longer plain, boring sites. They’ve actually become quite interesting.

For too many years their websites have consisted of a list of news articles, with the odd picture and the even odder video, with lots of ads. They didn’t seem to care. They didn’t seem to want business. Maybe that’s why the sudden change. They decided they actually wanted readers and that the only way to get them to spruce up their web sites.

The new sites are dominated by photos. Yes they are all from the same template; the head photo is of a local area, for example St. Paul Street in St. Catharines and the Main Street Bridge over the Old Welland Canal in Welland. The opening page still has ads, but they don’t dominate the way they did previously. You also get the current weather at the top now. For the most part it’s much easier to navigate. They’ve added community events, which is a nice touch.

The news section could stand to be improved by returning to the previous menu section that allowed you to go to local, national and international news from the opening page. Now it’s just news. You click news and then from the news page you get the subdivisions, which seems a bit awkward to me.

The recent VIA train derailment at Aldershot, Ontario, was reported in the same story shared by all the updated papers. However, local stories covering the local angles were also covered. There were photos and videos as well as stories. In past there would be only words with the odd picture.

Local sports and entertainment are now featured daily on each web site, along with bloggers, events and readers’ contributions. (In later blog I’ll discuss the citizen journalist and the ethics of contributing to media sites.

The big question is whether the changes have come too late to make a difference? I think they have, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

*I regularly look at the following papers: Brantford Expositor, Chatham Daily News, Niagara Falls Review, St. Catharines Standard and Welland Tribune, along with the Barrie Examiner, Kingston Whig-Standard and
Woodstock Sentinel-Review, which I occasionally look at as well. The Barrie Examiner, Chatham Daily News and Kingston Whig-Standard haven’t yet changed, but hopefully will soon.