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10 Reasons why online news sites suck

It may be wrong to beat a man (or a newspaper) when he’s down, but some of the unconscionable and downright annoying features and practices of news sites warrant a little attention. Here are some of the worst offenders:

1. 50 million-word stories

The reason why so many people use the internet to get their news is because they can do so fairly quickly. So that Pulitzer Prize candidate that takes two years to scroll through and resembles an endless sea of text? Either break it up or kick it down a notch.

2. Multi-page “slideshows”

On the flip side, there are the popular online “slideshows” — one news story spread over several pages, usually with a single image and a paragraph of text on each page. While the practice may be good for page views, no one wants to click through 27 different pages to read a single story.

3. Expanding/ “Rich media” ads

You’re going about your business, reading a news article when suddenly that innocuous ad in the corner expands across the page and some cute animation demands your attention. You panic and search for the “close” button, but because it’s tucked away in the last spot you’ll ever look, you can’t finish reading the news article and leave the site in disgust. Sound familiar?

4. No links whatsoever

Often a news story will refer to some cool, hip, happening site, but because there is no link to said site, readers are left to Google it themselves. Sometimes, this is the fault of the reporter for not including the link or at minimum a note to do so. Yet many news sites just don’t have a practice of linking out or even worse, don’t include links in fear that their readers may be taken away from their site.

5. Registration

Thankfully many news organizations have seen the error of their ways and stopped requiring visitors to register just to view a single story. There are a few holdouts who insist on the practice and who fail to realize that many visitors would rather not read the story at all than to endure a five-minute registration process for a site they may never return to anyway.

6. Poor design

The average front page of a major news site looks like the HTML fairies threw up on it: endless columns of text and links with no real differentiation between the content. If you’re going to do the column thing, check out Alltop to see how it’s supposed to be done.

7. Full-screen ads

Upon visiting a news site, readers are greeted with a full-screen ad for something or the other instead of the story they were expecting to read. Again, done to generate advertising revenue, but it doesn’t make the practice any less annoying.

8. The never-ending hunt

As seen on TV? Not really. Many television newscasters at the end of a report will say something along the lines of “For more information, check out our website” and give the station’s web address. However, when the viewer actually visits the site, the link to the story is nowhere to be found and doesn’t show up in the site’s search.

9. Pop-up ads

Are we really still doing these? Really?

10. Comment trolls and flamers

These guys are the bane of many sites’ existence (and not just news ones). Because of the sometimes controversial nature of whats being reported, people use news sites as a forum for their bitter, inflammatory, racist or insulting remarks. Frustrated site managers try to dissuade or delete said comments, but are mostly crying on the inside and clinging to the notion that everyone has the right to free speech.


Also on 10,000 Words:

25 Things I’ve Learned About Journalism
Eyetrack studies: What we’ve learned and how to conduct your own
The difference between print and online design

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