Old Media, Time To Find The Missing Link

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There is an inherent competitiveness within the media industry, and any given entity goes about its business as though parallel organizations don’t exist – and throwing the competition a hyperlink is tantamount to endorsement. After all, if you sell shoes, you wouldn’t willingly direct customers to another shoe store, would you?

Old Media, Time To Find The Missing Link
Old Media, Time To Find The Missing Link

But maybe in the New Media, we’re talking of a different animal. The New Media is more about conversation and cooperation than it is about competition.

Maybe. You still want to be the number-one go-to resource in whatever niche you’re in. But it seems unrealistic (or perhaps overly-optimistic) to think that media hasn’t already fragmented into a million pieces.

News Flash: Readers now how have unlimited sources, and yours is just one of them.

CenterNetworksWriting for CenterNetworks, Allen Stern criticizes WashingtonPost.com for publishing an article on the 20 best travel websites but not linking to a single one of them.

"The newspaper sites still don’t get how to join the conversation," he writes. "It starts with something as simple as a link to the sites and blogs who provided the content. In this case, the links should be provided to the travel sites that are mentioned."

In fairness, though, WaPo has been pretty aggressive about incorporating blogs into its everyday content, and linking out is standard practice among them. The same goes for the New York Times. However, in their main "newsy" articles, they’re both stingy with the link love, usually opting to link within their own sites rather than out to somewhere else.

That, and you have to tell them your life story via registration to view that content, another cardinal Web sin. Other sources often let their content expire, which is a prime cause of "link rot." Click on a link from an older story to find that newspaper site’s content is no longer available.

And this is really too bad, mainly because it is really an old-fashioned, Old Media approach to the New Media.

Note also how WaPo and the NYT are still attached to their serif fonts, as though reading from a screen and reading from paper are the same. I’m with them on that; I dig the little tails – they look nicer to me. But sans-serif makes for speedier reading online.

This isn’t so much an essay on where the major newspaper sites have fallen short during their online migration as it is a treatise on usability. I’ve written before about how the editorial process is changing because of the Internet.

Content has always been tailored (or at least should have been) to the end user. And in this case, the end user wants links to related sources. It’s been this way for years on the Internet. And not just links, but deep links that take the user directly to the information rather than linking to the website homepage.

News Flash #2: The end user doesn’t want to hunt and gather more than he has to. Information overload is no joke, and the easier you make the discovery process, the more likely the user is to return to you.

That means not delaying discovery with registration pages, making it easier and speedier to read, linking out to related sources, and keeping your content alive forever so the reference doesn’t die. 

So, I disagree (a bit) with Stern’s assertion that the major newspaper sites don’t get how to join the conversation; I think they do (finally) get it and are trying. Where they’re failing, though, is tailoring their design and content with the end-user in mind. It’s a new end-user they’re not used to dealing with, one that reads from a screen and not from paper. 

Old Media, Time To Find The Missing Link
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  • http://www.beachconnection.net Oregon Coast Pro

    BRAVO jason…..!!!! Or maybe it’s just nice to see someone saying what i’ve been thinking all along and validating my own approach.

    i’ve used a lot of these ideas from day one w/ BeachConnection.net….and considering we cover a small corner of the world in a very specilized way….we’re experiencing incredible success now. (and the market is rewarding us accordingly)

    thanx for articulating something that really needed to be said…and heeded more. You’ve also given me a few other ideas.

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