Friday, March 8, 2013

Not my favorite visit to

A flawed experiment, visual clutter, stale news and missed opportunities on The Orion website sort of spoiled my morning today. This semester, I've really looked forward to getting up and opening my browser to because the Web team has been doing such great work. Today's effort, unfortunately, was a step back.

The experiment

The daily webcast introduced a new feature: a roundup of world news. Of course, there are no Orion journalists trotting the globe, sending back on-the-scene reports from Japan and Venezuela, so the report was information gleaned from the Web, illustrated by still photos taken from the Web.
I have the same problem with this segment that I do with the news roundup that appears on page A2 in the print newspaper: readers are able to get better, more timely reports of news from elsewhere in daily newspapers, TV news and the Web.
The webcast version had the additional problems of:
• using a script written for print instead of broadcast
• using photos provided "courtesy of Google," which means someone at The Orion asked permission to use them (I'm guessing that probably didn't happen)
• using stills instead of video.
With two minutes a day to report the news, I think it's a better strategy to provide campus news, which the audience really can't get anywhere else.

Home page clutter

Although I'm conflicted about criticizing the ad staff's effort to wring as much revenue as it can from the website, the screen I saw when I navigated to home page this morning did not exactly invite me to stick around and read more.
The ad staff has plans to cut down the number of ads that appear in the top third of the home page, but that can't happen soon enough for me and other visitors to the site.

Old news

It appears the staff is back in the habit of dumping news just published in the Wednesday newspaper onto the website in one big shovel-load.
The stories in the photo rotator at the top of the home page were posted on Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday and Wednesday. The "Latest News" stories were posted Thursday, Wednesday and Wednesday.
The solution is something I wrote about on this blog as recently as last week. Editors need to use the white board in the office to schedule content for posting to the website every day of the week, if possible, but certainly every weekday. The whole idea of digital-first is that content goes on the Web before it appears in the paper, not after.

Missed opportunities

I understand that news doesn't break conveniently, so sometimes it's difficult to find great fresh content for the website. But sometimes -- like today -- stale content is the result of missed opportunities. Here are two:
• A couple of people on The Orion staff tweeted Thursday afternoon that Playstation was on campus less than 100 yards from Plumas Hall doing game demos and giving away game swag. That's an easy photo and a fairly easy video story that could have been in the webcast or on the rotator.
• Both men's and women's basketball teams are playing tournament games today, but there's no mention of that on either the home page or the webcast. In fact, it's a pretty full sports weekend, but visitors wouldn't know it by visiting The Orion website.

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