Sunday, November 24, 2013

Indianapolis Star: It is About the (Lack of) Content, Not the Design of the Website

This past week, the Indianapolis Star unveiled a new looking website.  Print stories were downgraded in favor of presenting fewer stories on the website's front page, but more pictures and even videos.  Shortly thereafter Star Editor Jeff Taylor wrote an article explaining the changes: 
We hope you'll agree [the new website] is a rich, visually compelling and easy-to-use format for exploring news updates, photo galleries, videos, searchable databases,
Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor
interactive features and other exclusive content for Star subscribers.

A cleaner design of the website displays photos or video with almost every story. The photos are larger, too, and videos are more prominent.

You'll find an improved search bar at the top of the home page to help you find information faster, as well as right-side and left-side arrows to help you click quickly to other sections or articles.
Share tools are easy to find. Our social media buttons "stick" with you as you scroll through an article and make it easier to share favorite stories.

And now you won't have to leave an article to post or read comments. You'll be able to click the comment icon next to the social media icons and immediately share your thoughts via Facebook.
Other new features include a "right-now" rail on each section front. The rail displays the latest content in that section — from stories and blogs to photos, videos and more.

We've redesigned and improved the weather page, too, with extended forecasts, severe weather alerts and interactive maps. And we've added quick links to help you dive into your favorite content.
In addition to these changes, we've launched a new IndyStar iPad app. And we're pleased to say that we are about to update our iPhone app. We've been aware of the frustration customers have had with the current version and apologize for that. We're eager to make the new version available and expect it to be ready for download later this month. Those apps go along with our new Android and mobile experiences.

...
The "improvement" to the website suggests that Taylor and Publisher, Karen Crotchfelt, believe the Star's decline in readership is due to the Star's failing to keep up with technology.  However, if Taylor and Crotchfelt walked outside their door and asked potential and former readers of the Star why they do not subscribe, the answer 90% of the time would be poor or a lack of content, especially when it comes to local issues.  Indeed, when Crotchfelt took over the paper she announced that it was the Star's role to be a cheerleader for local government.  She's has lived up to that promise  Star reporters rarely pen anything critical of local government.  Occasionally the Star does an excellent lengthy expose of wrongdoing in government, but the focus of such pieces is always on state government.  The Star has left reporting on wrongdoing by local politicians has been left to enterprising TV reporters to cover.

It is clear that Taylor and Crotchfelt do not understand people's frustration with the Star's lack of content.  While a bone was recently thrown to readers with the promise of an expanded newspaper, in fact the local news section has been eliminated entirely by being folded (some would say "buried") in the front section which historically has dealt with more national issues.  The Star has added some USA Today content in the form of expanded national news, but I'm not aware of anyone ever complaining that the Star needed more national news.

The Star's problems are almost due completely to a lack of content, particularly coverage of local news.  Taylor and Crotchfelt clearly do not understand that. If anything, the Star's newly redesigned website makes it harder to find the content that people want and, thus, will make people even less likely to visit the Indystar.com website.

5 comments:

guy77money said...

No matter how you slice it Paul, newspapers are dying! My kids could care less about the local news and if they did they will watch it before they will read it. Visual is ruling the day! The problem with the Star's web site is that no young person will pay for the content. I have very little time left in my life to read a newspaper from cover to cover. I like the extra USA content it looks good but I can get it for free online.

Flogger said...

I agree there is a critical lack of mass, especially in the Coverage of Marion County Issues. The Star has some good articles from time to time but the follow-up is weak to nonexistent. Example a few years ago they had some articles on the Nursing Home Industry but no follow-up. I suspect the same will happen to the Day Care series they just ran.

The Corporate Welfare and Crony-Capitalism rampant in Marion County is ignored altogether.

If The Star wants to see a real News Website they should view the Guardian Website. The Stars new Website is still laden with Sports links all over.

guy77money said...

Sports sells! As the young lady that used to run our sports ministry said, "To many people's new religion is Sports." I agree with her assessment, I try to tell my kids that to have balance in life. It is so much more fulfilling!

Pete Boggs said...

Mr. Ogden's right. The problem is content deficiency. Like establishment republicans & democrats; old line newspapers have abandoned their mission; journalism as content.

In the absence of content, sports news sells. The Romans likewise had their gladiators...

stevelaudig@gmail.com said...

The Star has lacked content since shortly before it was packaged to be sold to Gannett. It has been a "can miss" newspaper ever since. employees [hardly journalists] such as Tully are both evidence [and crime]. cheers.