Newspapers and Usability

The image “https://i2.wp.com/www.ocregister.com/ocregister/images/ocrlogo250.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.MediaPost (reg req’d) is reporting on Freedom Communications‘ revamp of some (eventually) all of its newspaper and local TV websites:

Kicking off its “Phoenix Project,” Freedom relaunched sites of its broadcast Web sites, including those of KTVL in Medford, Oregon, CBS6 in Albany and WTVC in Chattanooga. Improvements to the sites include streamlined navigation, faster page downloads and Web search powered by Google.

By midyear, the company expects to relaunch all 225 of its sites including those of secondary publications, according to Michael Mathieu, president of Freedom Interactive. During the year, the sites will also add more and more Web 2.0 features including blogs, video-sharing and interactive event calendars. “We want these to be community portals–not just news and information sites,” said Mathieu, who joined the company in July from United Online.

On the business side, Freedom is building a national sales force in cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco to sell display advertising on its network of sites. Also in the works is a national telephone sales center to help support its online classified business in key categories such as real estate, autos and employment. In November, Freedom signed a deal with career site Monster to power job listings on its newspapers.

Here’s the (I believe) new OC Register site. Freedom was a rumored unsuccessful suitor of local SEM firm LocalLaunch, eventually scooped up by YP publisher RH Donnelley.

Earlier this week the LA Times announced the results of its internal study on how to be more competitive online.

Here was my year-end prediction regarding the newspaper industry:

More newspaper pain but somebody figures “it” out: The print newspaper industry continues to feel the pain of flat-to-declining ad revenues, but online newspapers continue their gains. Newspapers abandon resistance to the mixing of editorial and user-generated content online. And this year somebody in newspapers cracks the code and creates a good user experience that can be emulated across the industry (to some degree). We may also see the emergence of a new, national newspaper ad network.

The emerging mantra of many online newspapers appears to be community. I agree with that strategy. But there’s a more important overall consideration: usability. While that’s an elusive term, it ultimately will mean the difference between moderate and great success for newspaper sites:

  • Does site search work?
  • Is navigation intuitive?
  • Is content buried many layers down or can users easily find it?
  • Is relevant, related content presented for consumption?
  • Are the pages a mess of clutter or easy to read and understand?

Executing effectively on these (and more) factors will drive page views, which means more CPM and click revenue ultimately.

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Here is more detail on Freedom from Peter Krasilovsky.

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