Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fine-tuning The Orion website

It's nice to see The Orion website get better little by little as the weeks pass. Having both the news and sports Twitter feeds on the right column of the home page now guarantees that readers see fresh content every time they visit. Bringing the camera closer to the talent dramatically improved the webcast, as did getting rid of the big-type anchor identifiers and putting Quinn in the newsroom instead of against a stagnant photo background. Adding Instagram posts to the home page was a nice way to get photos into the breaking-news mix in that right column. Keep it up!

Here are a few more suggestions:

• When you have a huge story (like this weekend's recovery of Brett Olson's body), don't be afraid to blow up the standard format of the home page to play it better. The menus will always be on the page to help visitors find the rest of your content, so feel free to make a one-subject splash when you have big news.
• I know I'm already a broken record about getting and using more video, but I thought the police news conferences over the weekend would have been natural additions to the package of Olson stories and would have allowed you to add sound/video to the webcast.
• Great idea to break schedule and have a special webscast on Saturday to update the story. Another special 'cast on Sunday, when Brett's body was found, would have been a good idea, too.
• Start thinking about how you can get more video, even basic voice-over shots, for the newscast. Pictures that move are much more effective on TV than still pictures. Example: The story about Greek rush could have been illustrated with video of the sororities and fraternities tabling if someone had run outside and shot 15 seconds of cover video. That will help you...
• ...stop using the Ken Burns effect on the webcast to simulate motion.
• Is it possible to end each webcast with a two- or three-item calendar of what's happening that day on campus? And by the way, is someone updating the calendar?
• It's important to get old news out of the way when news is breaking. The home page still has stories about the search from last week on it, even though Brett was found on Sunday. That situation emphasizes the need to present a fresh home page every day.
• (Related) It's time for the ed board to sit down and talk about how much content belongs on the home page and what should be out there. Concentrate on what's posted on the opening home screen -- the area equivalent to a TV screen. It's just as important as the real estate above the fold on The Orion's front page.

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