Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Craigslist is Where It's At."

In doing some reading of the Sunday newspapers on the internet, it made me think back to the article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Bill Wyman, “What Newspapers Can Learn from Craigslist.”

Now I’m a big fan of Craigslist, and lots of entrepreneurs I know are also fans. My daughter started a neat little business thanks to Craigslist while another entrepreneur a couple of weeks ago summed it up with the words, “Craigslist is where it’s at.”

Take a read of what the author is saying about newspaper websites and nod along saying ‘yes sir’ as you do...because Wyman is right on target. Here is a segment that I particularly liked:

The stories are as a rule stuffed into a cramped space in the bottom middle of the page, hemmed in by myriad other links, devices and widgets arrayed in columns to either side. Headlines, forced to fit in those tiny spaces, are often as awkward and telegrammatic as print ones.
Even after the reader clicks on a story, the site then offers up more of the same: A frame inside the browser window, unwanted navigation elements, links to any and every possible department of the site, placed above, to the left and to the right of the actual prose. As for that prose, it could be a 400-word reported piece, a lacerating editorial, or a recipe for pumpkin pie. It doesn't matter—it will always be trapped in that small well, suffocated by the weight of the widgets, links and navigation around it.

I'm not talking about ads. It is a cranky consumer who can't grok the reason for an ad next to a story. I think many readers, like me, would gladly swap their prized Adblock Firefox add-on for one that would keep the ads and instead eliminate all the non-content elements of the average newspaper Web page.

Ultimately, I would like about 99% fewer navigation links on the page, but will settle for 90% fewer. For that service, a newspaper site can hit me with all the ads it wants, or charge me any amount of money. But until it provides this simple and I think obvious service to readers, one can't help suspecting that a newspaper's approach to the Web is incomplete.

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