Anderson et. al. suggest that one reason local news isn’t doing as well as national news is because local newspapers have lousy websites (139). I am currently taking a web design class, so I’m studying what factors make a successful website. So let’s explore a local news website and see what is effective about it.
First, here is the website for the Tribune Review, the local paper for Greensburg and other cities in Southwestern PA. When opened, the home page looks like this:
At first glance, the interface looks pretty clean. The colors are muted and not distracting, though some might describe them as boring. The navigation bar is clear, and top stories are pictured with luring photos. Scrolling down reveals more stories, links, and even a poll, with the website’s information at the bottom. As far as I could see, there weren’t any distracting ads.
But then I remembered that I employed an ad-blocker. Up in the top by the url, there’s a little red square that says “13,” meaning 13 ads were blocked on that page alone. Curious, I reloaded the page without content blockers to see what would happen:
For some reason, the page itself looks the same, but the ad number in the corner skyrocketed to 62! I don’t know why this happened. Maybe I pressed the wrong button and did not disable what I thought I did. But if this website actually contained 62 ads on one page, that would definitely turn away readers.
So I opened the website on my iPad, which doesn’t have an ad blocker, and found it looked much more distracting. As soon as you click on an article, the ads take up more space than the article itself:
I clicked on a story on my computer, and from what I could see, the story was uninterrupted by pop-ups. (Thank you, ad-blocker.) Without ads in the way, I can say that the news stories were prominent and easy to follow, with graphics to hook the readers’ attention and no major site glitches that I could spot.
But after looking at many local websites (okay, the other ones I found were all in Wyoming) I started to see that they all pretty much looked the same. Maybe the reason local sites don’t do as well as national ones is because of how plain they are without their pesky ads. Newspapers may depend on ads for revenue, but they get in the way of what readers go to the site for in the first place: news.
Source: NM The Future (2 of 4)