Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This TV news website would be better if it had more branding

Steve Saffran over at Lost Remote has an amusing piece detailing Things Web Viewsers Never, Ever Say. Viewsers isn't a typo, it's meant to signify a cross between viewers and users. I'm not sure I like it, but that's beyond the scope of this piece of media criticism.

Here's a few items on the list:
  • “It’s cool how that information I want is only three clicks deep.”
  • “Did you see how they promote the network? That’s awesome.”
  • “I hope they brought marketing in to the meetings about this site.”
  • “Please: smaller fonts.”
As you can surmise, the biggest problem with media news sites is that they're designed to make money. News institutions have traditionally been divided into two separate pieces: The journalists, who report the news, and the business folks who make money so that the journalists can afford to report the news. Of course, no business folks would be content to stop there, sot he ultimate goal is usually to turn a profit.

And they're used to making money. But as more and more media consumers turn online for their news, they're facing tough competition for eyeballs. Whereas most towns only have one or two newspapers, there are thousands of news sources online. TV newsrooms are a bit more used to competition, but that's largely what's led to sensational journalism meant to scare viewers into watching.

So there's at least four goals of local news websites.
  1. Draw the audience in.
  2. Engage audience members with the site so they'll keep coming back.
  3. Convince audience members (or trick them) into clicking on ads.
  4. Keep the audience informed.
The problem is that 1, 2, and 3 often seem to take precedence over 4. Can I promise that if you deliver a news source with excellent content that people will keep coming back and will click on the few ads you do have often enough to support your news operation? No, there's no guarantees. But it'd be nice to see someone at least pretend to put content above flashiness.

Maybe I'm over-generalizing though. How are the websites for your local papers, TV stations etc? Are they easy to navigate? Do they prioritize news and information over advertising?

1 comment:

Steve said...


Thanks for the shoutout. "Viewsers" has been something of an ongoing joke at LR (7 years and counting, in fact) and I think I regret having used it in the title of this piece. It's getting more critique than the piece itself.

You have caught on to the larger point here - money. I'm fine with stations making money. In fact - I want them to make MORE money. It's just that they're going about it in an old-school way. Filling a page with as many banners and buttons as you can is no way to make money. A spartan site with targeted advertising is the way to do this. RSS advertising is the way to do this.

TV sites don't know what they want to be. They think they have to service the "master" - the TV show. It's nonsense. They need to service the community. Until they do that, there's no money - and no reason to visit, either.

Again - thanks for the link and the excellent analysis.

Steve Safran
Lost Remote

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