State of Design ’06 — Online News Sites

Check out Luke Stevens’ post featuring an invaluable collection of screenshots and design stats from newspaper Web sites around the world.

I find the unfortunate placement of ads on some of the U.S. sites to be shameful, at the very least degrading to the integrity of the news content within. For example, I never noticed NYTimes.com‘s mirror image ads on their masthead until seeing the repuslive “Blood Diamond” ads from this distant perspective.

If newspaper’s are hoping I become a print subscriber to escape the onslaught of ads on their home pages, I’ll repeat that there’s no money to be made on my $1 Fri-Sun delivered-to-top-of-hill subscription to the L.A. Times (and before I even take it inside I drop all the inserts in recycling).

If a news Web site’s goal is to have users regularly visit the home page, or even use it as their portal to the Internet, then the advertising is most definitely misplaced. Of course, as far as cost-per-click is concerned, the big money (and the most measurable) ad placement is on the site home page. However, it’s the ads in the actual articles that truly have the most impact, in my opinion (although each days’ paper has a fresh set of unique URLs), especially in this age of RSS and the ubiquitous Google search (leading directly to the article).

I’ve seen many people type the name of a Web site, columnist or publication directly into the Google searchbar as their mode of entry. I believe this is because of the uncluttered and easy-to-use Google homepage. Who wants to try and find a search box at nytimes.com when it’s scrunched between scrolling and animated ads? Personally, I default with Yahoo! News and digress with their full coverage links or news search engine. My other go-to is Google Reader, stocked with the latest from the hundreds of sites and blogs I track (see my opml). New York Times’ home page has a whopping 15 paid, graphic-based ads (not including a handful of self-referential ads) to only 9 legitimate (content-based) images.

As Yahoo’s news site proves, it’s better to be content heavy up front and keep the ads on the inside. Houston Chronicle is another example of this at chron.com. The home page is much shorter (lengthwise) than many of the others drawn upon in Stevens’ post but Yahoo’s cover presents at least twice as many hyperlinks (opportunities for deeper browsing — leading to a platform to better target ads based on content and the fact that the reader has already linked through).

I think the most effective news Web site home pages should be clean, content-heavy, customizeable and hyper-local — if not geographically, at least unique to the users preferences. Readers demand and deserve control of their content — why set your home page for news if the first thing that pops is going to be multimedia ad content?

And, yeah, those Scandinavian news sites (coming in at up to 9400 pixels in length!) are really something else.

Check out these sites / blogs about Online News Web site design: NewsDesigner.com, Editors’ Weblog, Paid Content, Press Time, poynter.

Gonzo Sure Can Shoot (Photos)

Stopped by the opening of a masterful display of Hunter S. Thompson original photo prints this weekend, at M+B Gallery somewhere near the crux of BH, WeHo and CC.

I stood in front of each of the 25 photographs while sipping a Wild Turkey on the rocks (how fitting) and was thoroughly impressed. I’ve been a huge fan of Thompson’s work since becoming enraptured with his writing (I originally discovered in the pre-pubescent 1980s between the covers of a Rolling Stone).

And we know ol’ boy could shoot — he loved him his bourbon, loved him his guns — but the photography, from Hell’s Angels, to self-portraits w/ typewriter @ Big Sur, adds to the freak flavor of the planet’s first and only “gonzo journalist.”

Check out all the photos at the gallery Web site, or pay a visit (bring yer own Wild Turkey, prices start at $3,500 on the prints).

iPods, TiVos and the Cheap-Ass Media Mongrels

The other day I blogged about Edgar Bronfman’s disclosure that he spanked his kids (or something) for all the music they illegally downloaded.

Now Reuters’ MediaFile blog details the iPod obsessions of the media moguls who attended last week’s Reuters Media Summit.

The follow-up questions aren’t printed, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume that these big-timers took advantage of much of this digital media free-of-charge, and most likely with comped iPods as well. Plus, they’re all hooked on TiVo and/or satellite radio, wisely avoiding the endless spew of lame adverts for, uh, TiVo and iPod (and Chevy). Check these excerpts and ask yourself if these cats have ever dropped a dime on a rhyme:

Richard Parsons, CEO / Chairman, Time Warner: “I like music. I have iPods everywhere. I had the whole bunch of (the Warner music collection) files put on before we sold it….”

Dick Cook, Chairman, Walt Disney Studios: “…For fun, I have a little iTunes and that kind of stuff. The only time I get to read books is when I listen to it so I have a lot of books on iTunes.”

JEAN-MARIE DRU, CEO, TBWA/CHIAT/DAY WORLDWIDE: “…I have five kids, so we are 7 at home and we have more than 15 or 16 iPods in the family.”

Ah, behold the aristocrats pirates of megalomediahackland.