Saturday, November 1, 2008

How the News fails at blogging

Today I discovered two good blogs published by the Detroit News: Living in the D, a five-person blog on life in the city, and Going Home, which offers an in-depth and personal look at the east side neighborhood near City Airport.

Discounting, for now, their journalistic value, what I most wonder is this -- why did I only learn of them today? I'm an informed, internet savvy consumer of Detroit media. Not only do I read the News and the Free Press online every day, I read everything else listed at right, including several local blogs and the Detroit Yes forums. Yet I didn't learn of either until I read this thoughtful story in the Columbia Journalism Review about the blurring of reporting and advocacy on Going Home. Note to the Detroit News: If reading the Columbia Journalism Review is what it takes for your target audience to find your blogs, your media strategy has failed.

The problem, I suspect, lies less with a lack of promotion than with fundamentally poor design. The News's website is a cluttered, unworkable mess. It boasts more than seventy blogs, but they do not have their own sub-domains and are impossible to search or navigate. It's hard to imagine a more confusing set up. I admire the News for trying (the Detriot News Labs blog suggests its effort is nothing if not sincere), but to my eyes it is so far failing in its online endeavors.

This is a subject I promise to return to. Expect more media criticism come January when I'm home from abroad.


David Damore said...

Your critique of the Detroit News is spot on. Have heard other people indicate that the navigation is impossible and required "7" clicks to get to what they wanted. That us unacceptable.

The News is probably selling advertising based on page views. They sell vs page views, so they measure page views. Their goal is to increase page views. Unfortunately this decreases the value of the online offering and people just stop visiting.

If the navigation was improved they would get an improvement in repeat visits. Page views per visit would [and should] go down, but at the same time total visits in the month and total monthly page views should grow on a month to month basis.

Hopefully they get the message that value is defined by the user and not the advertiser. Happier readers indicate value as a top information destination for local customers. That in turn leads to more opportunities to sell advertisements.

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