In comparing six different news oriented websites I found that while the industry has a predominant theme to it; each site’s individual characteristics are aimed specifically at its preferred audience. The fascinating part of this study was that some large companies like the Washington Post neglect to put enough resources into website for it to have a professional look and feel. Unlike their neatly printed newspaper, their homepage looks like a massive collage of text blocks and images.
I’ve had a hard time deciding exactly why I don’t visit news sites. One simple is answer is that I just done have the time, but after doing this study I think there’s more to it. When I browse through them its overwhelming. How could I possibly consume all of the stories when there’s thousands of pages of text, dozens of videos and hundreds of pictures? One plug-in I sometimes use when viewing media intensive sites is cooliris for firefox. This allows me to view all of the images with captions and the videos but unfortunately none of the websites I viewed for this study had strict enough code to allow it to work. In many ways this only reinforced my previous opinions of these types of sites. Those who are leading the newspaper business are still so wrapped up in a printable model, they don’t focus on transitioning to multimedia representation that can make consuming the news much easier. In a world that is increasingly interconnected there will soon be no excuse for not providing the most up-to-date methods for covering the news.
If I were rating these sites on how well they were “networked” into other sites and on their RSS feeds, the Cincinnati Enquirer would be on top of the list. In terms of covering world news and the use of multimedia including 3D modeling, graphs and mapping the BBC wins hands down. If its variety you want then newsvine has stories from almost all of the sites combined. With a local perspective, I think the San Jose Mercury news site is a very appealing and well designed. In any case, the time and place we live in requires that if we want all the facts we often need to visit multiple outlets to get them no matter how well their site is designed or how many podcasts they offer.