The New ProJo.com
Yesterday afternoon, the Providence Journal released their long-awaited new web site. Now the projo.com URL will redirect to providencejournal.com.
We’ve been hearing radio and television commercials about the value of the local media. The commercials explain that Pulitzers don’t pay the mortgage. So the folks at the Journal will need to institute a pay wall.
The Providence Journal news organization is moving to the paid eEdition to protect the investment it makes every day in gathering and publishing Rhode Island news.
Even the NYTimes realized a while back that they needed to charge for content, though they also realized that requiring payment to see anything more than headlines could be a death knell for the site. The NYT allows users to read their ten most popular stories free of charge every day. I’m not sure if the Journal will do something similar, as they don’t indicate that they will.
At first, the eEdition will be free to all web users, to allow them to see how it works. “People can experiment with it,” Sutton said. After about a month, a paid subscription will be needed to view the eEdition.
As for the new design of the site, I’m certainly not sold. If you want to see a great design of an online newspaper, look at Tom Ward’s Breeze Observer newspapers. Their design is clean, easy to find what you’re looking for and appealing, while including advertising that is non-intrusive.
The Journal’s site on the other hand feels very 1998 to me. The Journal is the main paper for the state of Rhode Island and much of southern New England but when you view the new web site, it’s not very inspiring, information is still pretty hard to find and the first things you see are ads. There is an ad banner across the top and ads down both sides around the content.
The actual content on the home page is in a space of 380 pixels wide. Ok, as Dan Yorke often says, that’s inside baseball. How big is 380 pixels? Well you can see for yourself, but people are buying bigger monitors with increased resolution. Look at some of the more common sites and how big they chose to make their sites. Data from 2009 shows the White House made their site 1006 pixels wide. Most are in the 900s.
Today, the most common width of a screen resolution is 1280 pixels. Yet the Providence Journal chose to use about 1/3 of that size for the part of their site that people are looking for.
There are other little questions I have about some of the decisions made. For example, what is an “Index”, shown in the last navigation button on the right. If you click on it, it is a site map in web terminology. It is an index if you’re using print terminology. This makes me to think the print side of the house is making decisions on the web design.
If you’re looking for editorials, where are those? Everyone that I asked this to initially went to the Topics menu. However, it’s actually under RI Speaks as are their blogs. The ProJo blogs were probably one of their most popular and commonly used parts of their web site. The “7 to 7 News Blog” is where they often posted the latest breaking news and where you could get caught up on the news quickly. It was prominent on the old site, now the blogs section is hidden and the “7 to 7” seems to be gone.
Lastly, look at the Sports menu button. Keeping in mind that this is the Providence Journal, look at the options you have under Sports. No mention of the Providence Bruins or the Pawtucket Red Sox. They have the Bruins and Red Sox. If you click on either of those, it takes you to a page with the headline of Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox. So they can’t even make the argument that both Bruins teams or both Red Sox teams are included in that menu.
I understand the issue that the company is up against. The ads model that they thought could support the business just wasn’t enough to sustain them, so they’re giving away a lot of content for free or after the ad revenue is figured in, at a very discounted price. However as long as we have sites like cnn.com for my national news and the Valley Breeze for my local news, and the Journal’s web site isn’t very easy to use, I think this redesign was a swing and miss.