Web Publishist

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The news and online journalism industry through the eyes of a young Web publishist.

Why newspaper Web sites are catered to print readers and the problems it causes

I’m currently doing  a work experience stint with The Daily Telegraph, working on their Web site, telegraph.co.uk. I had a conversation yesterday with the editor of the site about the design. I asked if perhaps the blogs should be more prominent.

He agreed with what I was saying, but we weren’t able to come away with a solid solution. Perhaps over the next few weeks one will emerge. The most interesting thing that came up in our chat was the suggestion that The Telegraph’s site — and the sites of many other newspapers — are designed with the intention of it mimicking the print product.

Data shows that the people who are consuming news on the Web are younger than those who turn first to print. Why, then, are newspaper Web sites designed as digital versions of the print product?

I realized the answer as soon as I asked it: People who consume news on the Web don’t visit the sites themselves. They’re linked in through aggregators and feeds. Often they don’t have to navigate the site because the content they want is delivered right to to them.

What we have is a viscious circle that has the potential for stifling creativity and the evolution of Web news. But it also poses a problem. The data says one thing, but it also says something to contradict it. The industry demands that you have a solid Web site, but the market shows young people like their news highly customized. That often means making the news come to them, not the other way around.

I don’t have a solution for this, but I wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind. It’s a strange position to be in. Undoubtedly aggregators will continue to grow and become more widespread. What that means for the actual Web sites of news organizations remains to be seen.

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