Newspaper websites – why all the negativity to change?

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THE Herald is about to unveil its new website. 

The daily must read allmediascotland says this will be rolled out over a seven-day operation.

And according to Stewart Kirkpatrick this will potentially cause all manner of problems for a bunch of well-argued technical reasons ranging from being old fashioned (ie outdated) to losing established traffic.

But you know what, I'm quite looking forward to it.

For a start, even though others will argue passionately against this, I actually think how your website looks IS incredibly important.

I want to visit a site that will be easy on the eye, well laid out, simple to navigate with clean cut lines and intelligent structure.

Sure, it might be at the expense of what has gone before.

But so what? 

The old Herald site – and apologies to those involved – was hardly groundbreaking. It certainly wasn't appealing.

Functional, at best, would be my high praise.

As for the Sunday Herald website - it's horrible. One of the least user friendly sites I've had the misfortune to try and use.

So maybe a break is what they need. Starting afresh. The puff above I think actually offers some promise.

The brand names, and I'll throw the Evening Times in here too, should in time be strong enough to help get over that hump of lost traffic.

If Donald Martin and co, now they have achieved much of what they set out, can actually put up the great content they promised would come from their new Nirvana, then who is to say that it might not work?

Look at the Daily Record website. 

In little over a year it has gone from a drab n dreary affair to a fully multi-functional, hits attracting trendsetter that despite their current staffing woes, is the underplayed success story of the year.

While their paper missed out to the Scottish Sun in print, is setting the heather alight as it jumps light years ahead of the Scottish competition on the net, earning Iain Hepburn a gong and Beverly Lyons kudos from a runners-up slot while they are at it.

Iain, on his own blog, pays fulsome tribute to the team involved on the site which, I confess, is far larger than I had realised.

He makes one key observation which I think must be kept in mind by all those companies developing their own digital strategies when he says: 

Because despite all the naysayers and doommongers who insist that newspapers are dead and print is a dinosaur, you need a bloody good newspaper to produce a good newspaper website.  

And he's so very right. Look at the best websites, The Guardian for instance. Strong content allowed it to trailblaze its way to glory in the early days and it continues to reap the benefits even tod
ay as a result.

While the Scottish Sun may have won newspaper of the year, even they would be hard pressed to argue that their own Scottish web presence comes anywhere near close to that being offered by Trinity Mirror or, indeed, The Scotsman.

That's right, The Scotsman,  the often maligned "it used to be better" site that has suffered some of the fate Kirkpatrick warns the Herald of.

Regardless, it still has bags of updated content and search for it and ye shall find. Which is why, if they try hard enough, the Herald might just be onto something.

Video, of course, playing a huge role in good sites too. Take today's Daily Record clip of Susan Boyle's first audition for Michael Barrymore before Britain's Got Talent came knocking.

The impressive Telegraph TV among the better offerings. Then I would say that, the bias in me developing video for the news agency I'm working for making sure of that.

It's all scary stuff for those tradition journalists wondering what it will all mean for them.

But in the past few weeks I've had the delight of having a number of work experience university students coming into the office, the majority 'multi-media' capable: shooting video, uploading content to the web, writing for print and even taking pictures.

One argument put to me in recent times is such multi-functional journalists are putting jobs at risk and shouldn't be encouraged.

However I look at it another way.

If I was just starting out, if I had those various skills, then surely it would make me not only more sellable to potential employers, but also open up the prospect of a media career with some longevity.

The way we are offering and presenting news – or content – is changing. Shouldn't that mean we have to take a look at ourselves too if we really want to be a part of the brave new media world now upon us?

Categories: Launches, Media philosophy & trends

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