Just as last year, I’m making my own subjective picks for various categories of my own choosing for web site awards. This is just for newspaper-affiliated sites, of course. And as last year, Bakersfield.com and VenturaCountyStar.com (because of my previous management of those sites) are ineligible to win, as well as any GateHouse Media site. Also, admittedly, my awards are entirely US centric, since that’s what I know best.
Best News Site: Knoxnews.com. Just as in years past, Jack Lail and his team continue to do an amazing job. You want participation? They’ve got it. You want an aggressive, wide-ranging and creative video strategy? You’ll find it on knoxnews.com. There is lots of blogging and loads of extra content. Knoxnews.com continues to do what all sites need to do — move further and further away from being just a newspaper online. This site is also one of the best designed and conceived in the business. This year, btw, I gave demerits to WashingtonPost.com for its highly restrictive registration system.
Rookie of the Year: New this year, this award goes to a newspaper site that probably none of us ever paid much attention, but sometime within the past year got its act together. The first-ever winner of this award: VictoriaAdvocate.com. This small-paper’s site is one of the most active I’ve seen in the use of participation and blogs, to the point of loading up the home page with these web-centric features. Here is a small paper site that isn’t afraid to break away from being merely a newspaper.com.
Come Back of the Year: Another new category. This award goes to a site that should have been much better than it was in recent years (if not forever), but made great strides in the past 12 months. It was tempting to give the award to LATimes.com, but sister site ChicagoTribune.com takes the honors. ChiTri is doing a great job of integrating blogging and video. I love their video chats, such as this one.
Best Site Design: NaplesNews.com. I don’t think there is a site in the industry, from a purely design perspective, that has done more to completely bury the news-print connection. There is no attempt on NaplesNews.com to be the newspaper online. Even the main nav communicates — we’re a web news site, not a newspaper site. Plus, the site, right down the play button on the video player, is just gorgeous.
Best Entertainment Site: AmpifySD. Is there another newspaper site with both live-streaming programming and a local music wiki? This site is caulk full of useful information to San Diego’s nightlife mavens (I was once part of that crowd), and plenty of ways to interact and contribute. And it’s a great design.
Best Multimedia Story: Rocky Mountain News, The Crossing. This package is the most thorough, well-conceived and executed multimedia effort I’ve ever seen. I don’t think it has a flaw, from the quality of its journalism, to its video, to its subject matter to its design and Flash implementation. I found the subject matter absolutely engrossing and it is so full of real life, real people drama.
Best Participation: DenverPost.com’s Neighbors. I’ve never been entirely comfortable — but didn’t mind the experiment — with the citizen-journalism-as-content efforts of NorthWest Voice, Backfence.com or YourHub. The Post, right in YourHub’s back yard, has taken a different approach — to create a conversation site, a place where local residents can discuss local issues, without any pretension that it is news. To bad the recent deal Media News made with Topix is likely to kill this effort. That said, the next time your publisher suggests you start a Northwest Voice/YourHub type of site, point him to Neighbors (if it’s still around).
Best User-Generated Content Site: TBO.com’s local artist database. This is a great idea — take a subject that people can be absolutely passionate about, where subjects care deeply about what they do and are eager to express it, and the ability to use web technology to create a very interesting vertical, and you have a winner.
Best Newspaper Video Effort: NYTimes.com. The Times has the resources to both go after long-tail video content (a basic idea beyond my own video strategy) and use better equipment and take more time editing to do it. The times produces some truly interesting video and video blogs, but never tries to be like TV. Also, the video gallery page is well executed.
Best Revenue Effort: LJWorld.com’s Marketplace. You can just look at Marketplace and see that it is smartly conceived and executed, not to mention the fact that many, many local advertisers have obviously bought packages in Marketplace. The clincher for me though is my own personal experience: Several weeks ago, when I visited Lawrence and dropped in on a local furniture shop, I was impressed by the implied endorsement the shop owner gave me — he told me to visit his LJWorld.com page rather than his own web site.
Best Database Journalism: You could pick any number of Gannett sites since the birth of the Info Center and praise its database efforts — maybe the best thing Gannett has done with the Info Center — but IndyStar.com sure has a hell of a lot to offer. Database journalism ranks right with participation, web-first publishing and video for growing online audience. We could all lift a page or two from IndyStar on how this is done.