A better list of Top 10 Newspaper Sites

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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. There were too many great newspaper web sites left off in favor of some lesser ones. 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. Also, in comments, nominate your own … I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones.

16 thoughts on “A better list of Top 10 Newspaper Sites

  1. Howard,

    Thanks for writing about our piece. We clarified our post to mention that we only looked at the top 100 US newspapers in terms of circulation, which is the universe we covered in the study this list is a product of. So due to that we did not look at sites like Bakersfield and Naples News. Will definitely check out those sites.

    Sorry you hated our list so much. We stand by it and it served its purpose if it got other folks like you writing about other outstanding sites.



  2. Sorry, I didn’t notice the clarification.

    With a couple of exceptions, such as WaPo and SOSD, most of the best newspaper site work has been done by smaller papers for the past decade. The bigger papers have been notoriously slow for adopting new ideas. In the major competitions, the lower circulation categories have traditionally been more competitive. It’s still not real helpful to look at larger newspaper sites for best practices.

  3. I like both lists :)

    Your point about many of the good ideas coming from the small-to-midsize markets has long been true and I think we’ll continue to see some of the most interestings things coming from what some might consider the byways.

  4. The Village Voice in Australia has done a great job. (No relation to the alt in NY; this one was part of Australia’s largest private media enterprise until being acquired by News Corp earlier this year.


    Disclosure…they use our platform to run their sites.

  5. I was shocked to see USA Today on their list. The content isn’t that good, the site itself is nothing special, and I’m not sure if social networking is something that makes sense for a site that has no real home base.

    I agree that much of the innovation going on in online media is not by the big companies. By their very nature they are slow and stodgy. I’m conflicted about http://www.nytimes.com. The site itself is nothing special (in fact I am not a fan), but their content is still very good. They have improved a lot, and I’d say I’d give them a spot somewhere at the bottom of the list. They certainly aren’t a top 5 consideration.

  6. I’ve been spending a little time on Bakersfield.com these days–and it really is one of the best. I particularly like the way y’all did the UGC/social networking end of things, where it’s transparent as to whom the staff bloggers are and whom the “rabble” are (using the term affectionately here.) As I’ve seen in my local area, this is important–people don’t always know the staff (esp. online staff) from the “users”.

  7. the guardian consistently wins “best newspaper site” awards – it has more viewers in the US than most of the papers listed.

  8. […] What would be useful here is more information about the number of sites they considered, and the collective experience of the staff (they considered the top 100 largest-circulation papers in the U.S., which prompted some responses). Frankly, the reason this link didn’t go up on the Post’s intranet is probably because nobody besides me had heard of the Bivings Group before (for your information, they’re a DC-based “internet communications firm” that has been in the business since 1993) (it did go up on the intranet, I didn’t see it before I left work for the day). […]

  9. […] A better list of Top 10 Newspaper Sites – howardowens.com “This Blivings Report on the “top 10 newspaper sites”… over looks a number of good better sites, and inexplicably includes the ugly and tanking USAToday.com and the link-bloated Chron.com… So, I’ll do my own Top 10 list. “ (tags: internet newspapers newspapersites journalism webdesign) […]

  10. I just wanted to point out MindTouch’s Deki Wiki and Nexus services is powering community sites at SignOnSanDiego.com like AmplifySD. Check it out, it’s a wiki that’s really easy to use and makes it possible for non-techie end-users to create mashups. Thanks for the post and for referencing sites powered by MindTouch. :-)

  11. […] Howard Owens, all-around New Media maven and Director of Digital Publishing at Gatehouse Media, named Signonsandiego.com as one of the top 10 newspaper sites in his widely-read blog. One key reason for the citation is a MindTouch-powered wiki portal dedicated to promoting local San Diego music. This site enables music fans, band members, musicians and other interested visitors post their reviews/comments, images and slide shows, videos about their favorite bands, music, venues, CDs etc. MindTouch also enables site users to very easily aggregate blogs and other content streams to support a story. Other sites mentioned in the top 10 include bakersfield.com, naplesnews.com and washingtonpost.com. For more information, visit http://www.mindtouch.com. Local tags: MindTouch, newspapers, signonsandiego, wikiMindTouch, newspapers, signonsandiego, wiki […]

  12. I’m shocked that you would consider LJ World “a little sloppy and confusing”. Of all the websites listed above, I consider LJ World the absolute easiest to read, search and browse.

  13. Thanks for your list – but I’m not convinced by this idea of convergence that you seem to favour. What’s wrong with a Newspaper’s website looking like a Newspaper’s website?

    If I want to do social networking I would not go to a newspaper. Similarly if I want to read opinion I would go to the blogs, which would include media-based blogs as one sector. I’m tempted to say that newspaper that go all “web 2.0” are suffering from “site-bloat”.

    I’m writing from the UK, and the difference may be in the US press being regional – here our main press is the national daily papers.

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