Image by Michal Zacharzewski
By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
Are you trying to entertain, simply blast facts or engage your audience? How to convey a message is critical in the digital age, where news is no longer a commodity and perspective and presentation is everything. Depending on your message, there are numerous ways to communicate it. Through multi-media, experts, content aggregators and many more online tools, web sites can convey a relevant and targeted message to their audience. In this week’s top five, we will explore the many web content strategies to effectively communicate with online users.
1. Synthesize the Story
Getting the scoop is essential in breaking, or as industry professionals call it, hard news. The scoop is why journalists adopted the inverted pyramid (i.e. most important things first). Though CNN doesn’t call it the scoop, their story highlights give readers a snapshot of key facts. In today’s 24-hour news cycles, the take-aways are often all readers need to know. CNN’s highlights section takes center stage, next to the headline. If readers so choose, they can look below the headline to find out the details. CNN master’s the scoop and the understands the importance of reader’s time.
2. Dig Further
While the internet connects us with constantly churning news sites, it also can connect us with related stories so we can dig deeper. We have discussed how the internet allows users to find more and more relevant information. Google does a terrific job of aggregating similar news stories from a search engine perspective. Google news wraps all relevant news sources together and allows the user to choose which most suites their personal taste. From a one-platform perspective, the Daily Beast features a single topic with many stories surrounding it, called The Big Fat Story. They blend The Daily Beast content on the topic with Associated Press stories in both text and video formats. Google News and The Daily Beast exemplify the dig further content strategy.
3. Gain Insight Debates. It’s about who is the most persuasive—armed with the best and mot relevant information. A healthy debate shows different perspectives with the strongest, most insightful arguments to support them. The Economist does a fantastic job of showcasing debates on their site. Complete with a moderator and two opposing points of view, The Economist features an Oxford Style debate on a different topic nearly every day. Sometimes they’ll feature a guest writer to shed more authority on the subject. To see how the Economist’s audience is weighing the debate, they have a polling feature that gives readers decision to crown the victor. In some ways, it’s very intense and a game of argument and persuasion. The benefit of such a feature is for readers to not only inform and renforce their own opinion, but also the argument against it.
4. Engage Users One of the most sought-after strategies is the one that engages the user in an entertaining, thought-provoking way to leave a lasting impression. By doing so, a website can retain a strong following of quality users. The New York Times has tremendous resources to create interactive website features that engages users in ways most news sites cannot. When Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in jail, The New York Times featured an incredible timeline that spanned Madoff’s entire personal and professional lives, complete with video, slideshows, text, photos and related content. From the founding of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities L.L.C. in the 1960s to early suspicions of the Ponzi scheme in 1992 to his sentencing late June of this year, NY Times engages readers in a multimedia, comprehensive way. Yahoo! did an excellent job of developing an ongoing, involved community forum about Michael Jackson’s death. The Yahoo! news site featured many of the short essays submitted by Jackson fans, coupled with their constantly updated coverage. That level of community engagement is incredible.
5. Amuse When we’re pursuing the internet, sometimes it’s to dig for information, other times it’s to gain insight, sometimes it’s a combination, but once in a while we just like to be entertained. It doesn’t just have to be a dog on a skateboard to entertain us. It can be more than a YouTube video that gets us laughing or move us. It can be audio, such as Pandora—an online radio player that recommends music based on users favorite artists or songs. Or it can be a slideshow on Slideshare or on ABC News. ABC does a good job of mixing the hard news with the soft to strike an even balance between information and entertainment. On ABC’s front page they have a slideshow of 37 images of x-ray oddities.