9 Ways for Newspapers to Improve Their Websites

Newspapers have to change. That’s something so obvious that it’s silly to even talk about it. Unfortunately, not all of them even realize that (and why) they need a website. Those of them who do, rarely have any idea of how to do it properly. To help them out, here are the 9 Ways for Newspapers to Improve Their Websites. Here are the points, with my comments.

  1. Start Using Tags. Yes, please. Even small newspapers cover so many different topics that organizing articles into categories only is very inefficient. Categories are good, but tags are better. They can work together with each other, but if you are to choose one – choose tags.
  2. Provide Full Text RSS Feeds. Yes, indeed. This will increase the readership, and it will increase newspaper’s exposure. It will also make integrating news and cross linking with newspaper easier on the other sites. Plus all the benefits of RSS search engines picking up the content and indexing it properly.
  3. Work with External “Social” Websites. Sharing images via Flickr and easy bookmarking via Delicious and the like are just the beginning. Make it easier for me to blog about your articles, and I will gladly do so.
  4. Link to Relevant Blog Entries. Yes again. Blogs are an excellent source of alternative opinions and details. And there is no good reason not to help your readers build an informed opinion on their own. Or is there?
  5. Get Rid of All Registration. Disagreed. There are several ways to make registration work and improve the experience. This ranges from building quality comments to providing extra features to registered (and, optionally, commercial) users. One example of where registration works and helps in Linux Weekly News. But at the end of the day, of course, content of the articles must be available in full and without registration, even if with some time delay. I won’t make a link to protected article from my blog. And newspaper will suffer for that.
  6. Partner with Local Bloggers. Nothing to add here.
  7. Offer Alternative Views of Your Content. This can be tricky for the newspaper to figure out, especially given the quality of IT staff in many of them. But by making the website as open as possible (API anyone?), newspaper can give the tools to people who care. And they will do the rest. In short: open up.
  8. Modernize Your Site’s Graphic Design. Once in a while. A while being at least five years. I mean – at least once in five years or so improve something. You’ll be thanked for the next five years. And maybe, just maybe, people will start coming to your website to read articles, intead of using ugly interfaces of RSS aggregators.
  9. Learn from Craigslist. I’d say simplier – learn. Look around and try noticing things that you like and dislike about your website and others’ websites.
  10. Make your content work on cell phones and PDAs. Yes, this is important. But, on the other hand, if full article RSS feeds will be available, people will fix this issue for you. As well as many others.

Also, I’d add this one:

  • Implement comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks. Let people have a discussion about your articles. Let them link back to you. Let your readers get more opinions on the topic.

I know that now it sounds like all newspaper websites must look like blogs, but it’s not necessarily so. It just sounds that way. Really.

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