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Newspapers Get Mixed Report Card from Consultant

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Get Mixed Report Card from Consultant

Article excerpt

Newspaper Web sites are generally doing a good job of presenting information but have yet to fully leverage the interactive features of the Web, says marketing expert Bernadette Tracey, president of NetSmart, a consulting firm in New York. "I'd have to give the large news-papers an `A' for their Web sites," she says, adding that regional papers still have room for improvement.

A consultant for nearly two decades, Tracey's current clients include The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Long Island, N.Y., Newsday, CNN, CBS, America Online, AT&T, Microsoft, CondeNet, Hearst and Ziff Davis. Included in her latest survey of 1,000 consumers was the top reasons why Web users go to and leave newspaper Web sites. Seventy-two percent of the respondents say they had visited newspaper Web sites, and 44% go there on a regular basis.

When asked why they access newspaper Web sites, 92% say they did so to "feel better informed." Other reasons for visiting included:

* 24-hour news access, 91%

* To save time, 89%

* To get breaking news, 89%

* To get wider, in-depth coverage, 82%

When asked what frustrations cause them to leave newspaper Web sites, 77% of respondents say "slow downloading." Other reasons for leaving included:

* Site was difficult to navigate, 73%

* Site was not interactive, 68%

* Home page was not user-friendly, 62%

"If the home page is loaded with too much information and overly complex flashy graphics, you'll annoy users," Tracey warns. "The major newspapers seem to have learned that lesson, but many of the smaller papers have not."

Tracey says many news Web sites contain too many links on their home pages. "Smaller papers in particular are trying to put too much information on the home page," she says. "It's confusing. They haven't figured out yet what people really want, so they end up putting everything on the home page. …

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