Practical advice from APME

Written by Michael on April 17th, 2006

The other day, the Associated Press Managing Editors put out a practical, accessible cluster of pieces about newspaper Web sites. I especially like the ones about putting your Web site on the offensive and the strong competition to come. More below the fold.

The first advises that newspaper sites:
1) Radically simplify their front-door pages. “Count the links. You probably have 200 or more. It’s insane, stupid and lazy. On the web, simplicity sells.”
2) Load the site with photos and videos.
3) Let visitors customize.
4) Allow user contributions, but use a heavy-ish hand in editing them.
5) Sometimes, be unpredictable and funny. Change the front-door layout to reflect the news.

I do have qualms with some of these (customization of news content should be done only with a reader’s permission; changing home-page layouts should only be done by people who really know what they’re doing, usability-wise).

The second lists five sorts of competitors that local papers will face for the first time in the next few years, thanks to users’ migration onto the Web:

1) Local broadcast outlets.
2) Big national portals, scaling down to our level.
3) Hyperlocal, user-generated startups, such as Backfence. “They are getting big venture money and we are their prime targets. … Imagine what will happen when they partner up with cable networks or local weeklies or phone directories or someone else.”
4) Local chambers of commerce and the like, creating free, functional search sites. (Good call, man, good call.)
5) Just about anybody with a server, a keyboard, and a lack of caution about libel suits.

The second list, really, is the driving force for the first. Big-city editors are still trying to get used to the end of their monopoly. Small papers need to prepare for competition faster than the big ones did.

(Hat tip:


Leave a Comment