26 August 2007

On newspaper websites (or biting the hand that feeds me)

Not for the first time, The Sunday Herald's website this morning is something of a disaster area. By the time this post is published, they may have rectified the position, but at present none of the articles appears to be accessible. This is rather more serious than their usual habit of running words together, so as to make certain articles unreadable. I do sometimes wonder why they bother with a website - admittedly it is available for free - but what do their advertisers think? And why does not the editor or proprietor phone up his technical people and demand that they get it sorted? OK, it's Sunday but even so. The answer is probably that no-one at The Sunday Herald gives a toss about their website, surely an attitude that is commercially short-sighted.

Not that other newspaper websites are significantly better. The (daily) Herald is clearly worried that it does not have enough daily content - so it continues to list articles that are days old, without dating them on the summary pages. And it must be one of the most primitive websites around in terms of design. It is worth checking out their so-called political blogs - apparently, updating once in a blue moon is sufficient. (As of yesterday, the most recent posting on one of the blogs was 18 July. Again, why bother if you do not take it seriously?)

Meanwhile, The Scotsman continues to pursue its policy of hiding its opinion pages behind a firewall requiring payment. Does it think that this will enhance its influence over the opinion formers? Who cares what Peter McMahon or Hamish Whatever writes if it cannot be linked to? Once again, why run a website if you want to hide away the 'good' bits? I can't believe it makes much money. But at least the website is technically competent and usually functional.

The Guardian claims to have one of the best and most-read websites in the newspaper world. And I used to think that it was indeed one of the best and easiest to use. But that was until they introduced their new introductory page. Anyone using dial-up (as I am forced to do occasionally) will recognise that the page is so overfilled with photographs and links that it takes far too long to load. It is as if you were covering up a set of efficient and competent knickers with a flashy and incompetent fur coat whose buttons are deliberately designed to make life difficult. (And, as someone who makes regular use of its tv schedules, this nonsense that they are updated daily at 5.25am, when they are frequently not updated until 8am, is irritating - and, if they are prepared to list the Sky Sports schedules, why not Setanta?) Thankfully, The Observer retains the old Guardian format, which in my eyes makes it the best newspaper website available. Shame about its content, which seems to have gone irretrievably downhill since its conversion to tabloid format.

Since its re-design, The Times website has become clunky in the extreme, while its Sunday counterpart continues to refuse to publish its Ecosse section. And what happened to the Scottish version of the daily newspaper that we were promised earlier in the year?

The Independent website is fairly primitive, like The Herald. Also like The Herald, it lists articles from previous days, but at least it has the grace to date them properly. Curiously, it divides its columnists into two sections according to their place in the alphabet - what's that all about then?

The Telegraph has a reasonably competent website but it relies for its Scottish news on that maddo Cochrane whose reports increasingly seem to come from a foreign country.

The tabloids are beneath contempt.

The one good thing is that they are all free. Why buy a newspaper?


Anonymous said...

Just today I realised this. Never again will I buy the Sunday Mirror just for the hilarious TV column. You also get much more of a laugh on the Scotsman's message boards.

Good points about the websites, although I happen to think the Guardian introduction page is quite well laid out. Why are you still using dial-up in this day and age?!?

stu said...

It's also interesting to mention that whole sections of both the Herald and Scotsman newspapers still don't appear online. Notably 'Commercial Property', some sports columns, special late editions and various other odds and ends.