This Blivings Report on the “top 10 newspaper sites” has been getting a lot of attention, but I think it’s rather weak, and not just because Bakersfield.com isn’t on it (though that is part of it). It over looks a number of
good better sites, and inexplicably includes the ugly and tanking USAToday.com and the link-bloated Chron.com (gorgeous site with lots of blogs and such, but the home page is about 1,000 links too big).
So, I’ll do my own Top 10 list. This time, I will ignore my conflict of interest and include Bakersfield.
- Bakersfield.com. The site still has the best UGC/social networking platform of any newspaper site (we’ll change that at GHS), and the best video strategy and does a great job at keeping the site constantly updated. The site wins for usability and overall design as well. The content marquee on the home page is a mistake, but perfection is always elusive. The page has gotten long, but at least the added links are pointing to web stuff, not print stuff.
- NaplesNews.com. Blivings praised USAToday for their social networking, but both Bakersfield.com and NaplesNews.com have better social networking and participation. The new site design is gorgeous and quite usable. Flaws: Why “Latest News” and “Top Stories” on the home page. The top stories box screams, “We can’t stop thinking of ourselves as a newspaper site.” And Studio55 is well produced and slick, but that’s part of its problem. It’s trying too hard to be TV. But Studio55 is also a big part of what makes this a great site.
- WashingtonPost.com. Combine great site design with great content and plenty of hooks for user participation and you’ve got a winner. It’s no wonder that WaPo.com leads the industry in local audience reach. WaPo really doesn’t do a great job of displaying its video though, and still hasn’t broken too far from the “we’re a newspaper site” mentality.
- SignOnSanDiego.com. I’ve never been a fan of the home page design, but long before continuous updates or videos were all the rage in our industry, Ron James and his content team at SOSD have been doing it. They were also among the first to embrace participation through comments on stories and UGC photos. Under the hood are some great subsites, such as AmplifySD. We could all learn a lot by studying SOSD more closely.
- KnoxNews.com. Jack Lail has long run one of the best newspaper web sites in the country, and its one of the few sites that has continued to improve with each iteration. The current site features a top half of the home page that is damn near perfect. The bottom half could almost be entirely lost and never missed, which would improve the home page greatly. The overall site architectures is outstanding. There’s room for participation on Knoxnews.com, and blogs and a nice mix of video offerings.
- LJWorld.com. The design has gotten a little sloppy and confusing, but it’s still one of the most progressive newspaper sites in the world. It scores big points just for being more web focused than print focused.
- NYTimes.com. Maybe the only newspaper site in the world that has stuck very close in look and tone to its print parent and actually pulled it off. It, too, suffers from link bloat, but you can’t argue with the quality of the Times content, and it is among the industry leaders in online video.
- SFGate.com. Here’s a content-rich, regularly updated site with some great blogs, multimedia and user participation. Again, the home page is about twice as big as it should be, and I’m not overly impressed by the years-and-years old design, but there’s lots of good stuff going on here.
- TBO.com. The home page is a little cluttered, but at least they don’t try to stuff every link they can imagine onto it. You can comment on stories, there is multimedia a good calendar and lots of information about the local area.
- Chron.com. Of all the link-bloated home pages out there, Chron.com wears it the best. Chron scores well for blogging and multimedia.
So I’m sure some people will want to give me grief for making Bakersfield.com #1, but it’s my list based on my criteria, which chief among them is to get as far away from being a newspaper site as possible, and be a platform for the local community. I still think Bakersfield is doing that best. On different criteria, it might score differently, but based on what I think — with more than a decade of experience in this field — is what news sites should be doing, it comes the closest to getting it right. It would seem unfair not to include it just because of my prior involvement with the site, and once it gets included, it needs to get its due.
If nothing else, this list should clearly demonstrate that the Blivings list was a lot of bunk.Â There were too many great newspaper web sites left off in favor of some lesser ones.Â Remix the list any way you like, I’m confident its a better reflection of who is doing what right in newspaper-associated web sites.Â Also, in comments, nominate your own … I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones.