What do you look for in a newspaper’s website?

As a website developer and former editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian, I spend a lot of my time exploring and studying the online components of print publications.  When I was DM editor in 2009-2010, we were in a huge transition phase with TheDMOnline.com, including a complete redesign of the site.  Between that and getting the paper out each day, it was all we could do to simply get our content online.

Naturally, I am fascinated with the ways college newspapers are using their websites to produce multimedia content.  Using video, podcasting, photo galleries, interactive features and social media, many student papers are using a “web first, print product later” mentality when producing news.  By using the web for breaking news, constant updates and enhanced multimedia content, they are able to use the paper product for more in-depth, long-form stories in an attempt to better serve the readership.

Here are some of my favorite college newspapers around the country which are doing their jobs really well by valuing both the web and the print product:

The Daily Northwestern (Northwestern University)

The Daily Princetonian (Princeton University)

The Columbia Daily Spectator (Columbia University)

The Daily Tarheel (University of North Carolina)

Check a few of these out when you have time.  What do you like or dislike about them? If you were a student at any of these universities, would you visit the site on a daily basis?

After that, check out TheDMOnline.com and compare it to the other sites.  What do you think the current DM editors should feature on the website?  What do YOU, as a student, expect/want to see on the site?  Breaking news? Sports scores? Blogs? Interactive features like polls or surveys?

To give you a little more guidance, here’s a great column from MediaShift about the online presence of college newspapers.  Skim through it before answering and consider it when developing your response:

“10 Reasons Our Student Newspaper Blog Stinks”
– MediaShift: Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution






About Alex McDaniel

I am a first-year journalism graduate student at the University of Mississippi.
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38 Responses to What do you look for in a newspaper’s website?

  1. Katie Ireland says:

    Even when first looking at the DM online, it is not a very appealing website. I don’t really know exactly how to make it look more appealing, but the site just needs to be more inviting. Another suggestion would be to allow comments on the site so that users could interact and have online discussions. These things would probably help the site become more attractive and user-friendly.

  2. Riley Pickett says:

    The DM online is a well-organized website that is very clean looking. The only thing I would change is to add a little more color to make it more appealing and to add more interactive content. This would include allowing comments, keeping the Twitter up to date. Also, it would be great to have links to Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, and a blog.

  3. Abe Dean says:

    I decided to look over the websites suggested and found out just how poorly the DM is constructed.If someone from outside the Mississippi state line were to stumble upon the DM online they would have to read the entire front page to realize that it is in fact about Ole Miss. It’s hopefully obvious this is strange seeing how UNC has flashes and decor consisting of baby blue and that it is ultimately very attractive to the eye unlike the droll DM. I personally found the Columbia Spectator the most intriguing because it’s format differed from all the others in such a way it’s the only one I noticed not looking like a blog page.It also had what seemed to me to be the best blog by a long shot. The Daily Northwestern had an interesting way of navigating around the site, it had a basic bar with all the key things generalized in front of you. It slightly mimicked the style of Ole Miss’s university’s site in that manner but as for the Princetonian it lacked in appeal and reminded me of a website someone might make as a nighttime project.

  4. Samira Abunemeh says:

    I agree. The site does not look good, and I would like to have a comment page. I like to read that along with the article. Also, I think the site needs to have more updates and maybe some unique stories as well so that people are encourage to read that instead of reading the newspaper. Unlike the other websites, the DM does not have a lot of interactive tools. All this could be in vain, though, if no one knows about the website. To be honest, I didn’t even know we had a website.

  5. Gabrielle Krotser says:

    I think that in order to have a great newspaper site you must have/provide multimedia sources (i.e. live audio/video, animated graphics, etc.) , interactivity (i.e. article discussion, distributed reporting, etc.), and on demand content (i.e. hyperlinks, search tools, etc.) for your audience. Along with that you also must include news worthy elements such as; proximty, timeliness, conflict, impact, magnitude, prominence, novelty and emotional appeal. I feel that the newspaper sites provided as good examples deliver all of these elements. However, the DM lacks many of these important qualities. The first major problem is the lack of multimedia content. I found the DM’s multimedia content outdated, lacking impact and low in number. If the articles contained short videos, or a neat flickr slideshow, I feel that either of those would be more appealing to viewers. The second major problem is the lack of interactivity with the students and the community, aside from their daily tweets. There needs to be more blogs created (even student run) and discussion boards posted along the side for viewers to easily access. The last however, not the only problem, was the non-exsistent on-demand content. I think that adding a side bar for the dean or other administrative figures where it could display a feed of updates at the university would be a great way to incorporate this. These issues I feel would benefit the DM in many ways. On the same note, I understand this takes volunteered commitment and time that many college students struggle to find the time for. I feel that the students providing what they can to the DM are doing a great job and the DM’s website can only improve!

  6. Dj says:

    The DMonline has MUCH to work on to even consider competition with the listed sites. For starters, the site has NO design at all. When i looked at the DailyNorthwestern, the first thing i took notice of was the pop of color. Our site should at least have the school colors across the top. The second thing i noticed was the lack of current events in some areas. The last tweet from the DMonline was eleven weeks, six days ago. In the multimedia ” section” the latest update was the theta encore which was last semester. Lastly, the site lacks creativity. there is nothing on the site that just attracts the eye or grabs the attention in reference to the titles of what is going on. Hopefully over the course of the semester, the DMonline will step their game up and show the skill they have.

  7. Kevin williams says:

    An effective newspaper/website needs to scream “READ ME!” to the reader. Not literally, but figuratively. Glitzy multimedia presentations may support this, but alone they are not enough–the content must be quality as well. Information is the new drug of choice in America and those who can deliver the quickest fix will survive.

  8. Courtney says:

    I looked at the DMonline website and it just screams boring. Nothing pops out at all that gives he readers excitement. It looks very dull and boring. Nothing catches the eye to make you even look forward to want to reading it. I’d rather just read the actual physical newspaper.

  9. Sydney Devers says:

    The DM’s site is not very appealing to the user. I think allowing users to comment and give feedback as to what they would consider “appealing” could be a huge asset to the website. This might also encourge other people to get involved with the site and bring back more readers.

  10. Jeremy Scruggs says:

    In comparison to the other online newspapers that are listed the DM, in my opinion, is great. It gives you the opportunities to leave a comment, it has adequate information, and it keep you updated on the latest news. However it, could use a bit more interactive links. Besides that I think the DM online is something worth using.

    -Jeremy Scruggs

  11. Steff Thomas says:

    Writers are conditioned to write in a way that will attract readers and keep them interested. This should be the same when constructing a blog or website. Of course, then there are added considerations like colors and layout. I looked at each newspaper link posted on this blog, and I realized that they all have certain elements that make them appealing, as well as places in which can be improved. All the websites, I think can make their headlines more captivating. Maybe make them big and bold like they are in an actual newspaper. As a writer for the Daily Mississippian, I feel the need to defend it. Yes, it is a bit bland and could use some improvement. Maybe added extra links and an interactive element of some sort. But, I don’t believe it is the worst. I am sure there are other college blogs out there that have less desirable content than thedmonline and a much plainer look.

  12. Ben Tedford says:

    Most folks don’t care to find out about the news. In fact, a majority of folks are content with what they hear from others, see on the front page of a paper or the basic news provided on their internet home page. An idea that would attract more online participation would be to have videos of sports highlights for those people that missed a game winning shot or great play on the home page so folks could go check it out. Who knows, they may even browse the site after they finish the clip.

  13. Kristen Peters says:

    The Daily Northwestern’s website rises above the rest, in my opinion, due to the fact that it is colorful, interactive, and has interesting stories that I WANT to read. The Daily Mississippi has much work to do due to the fact that the same stories on the website are the same stories that I can read in the paper. There are barely, if any, videos, and none of the stories “capture” my interest or intrigue me. The DM should really read the article and pay close attention to the 3rd reason why our college blog stinks “The blog is being too incorporated into the paper” or vice versa. When I look at the blog, I see the same thing I see in the paper. Give me videos, new articles, or just something different!!! The Daily Mississippian should take notes from The Daily Northwestern

  14. Erica Boney says:

    I had never been to the DM online website until today. I loved the The Northwestern blog. It was colorful, creative, and interactive. It was a very friendly site. If I attended Northwestern University, I would definitely be visiting the blog frequently. The Daily Mississippian site, however, is painfully boring and uninviting. There is no color or creative design to it. There aren’t any interactive tools such as surveys or polls. Everything featured on the website is what is printed in the paper. No one is going to read the paper and then visit a blog with the exact same content. The blog needs more pictures, more interesting articles, and it needs stories about things other than sports. You can most likely go to The Oxford Eagle website and read the same sports news. The DM blog should feature things that make the site unique, otherwise no one is going to visit it.

  15. Molly Wesley says:

    If I was not a student at Ole Miss and found the Daily Mississippian website I would have no idea that it was the University’s newspaper, and that is a problem. As the campus’s paper you should be appealing to not only the students but to the people who live in Mississippi because it is called the Daily Mississippian right? The organization of the site is rather weak in comparison to the other sites, but it has the right idea. I really liked how the DailyNorthwestern’s site is set up because from the first glance it grabs your attention with color, bold text styles, and great pictures. You have the ability to go straight to the section of interest of news on campus, city, forum, sports, hourly, multimedia, etc… The Daily Mississippian is on the right track it just needs a little more direction, maybe students majoring in graphic design could collaborate with the students in charge of the site to come up with better ideas to grab the readers attention and bring more people to the site.

  16. Christina Huck says:

    I took a look at all of the online news papers and everyone else’s caught my attention, except for ours, the DM. Northwestern’s was so organized and made it easier for readers to track down what they were interested in, along with pictures, videos and blogs. The Princetonian was concise and I really liked how you had access to the paper that came out everyday that week so you could go back and read something that you may have missed and it was clearly labeled and so easy to access. They also had a HUGE sports section and I loved that. They had information on what seemed like every team and headlines that told you the final score, which is really what students are most concerned about. Mizzou’s was okay, I was actually expecting more since they are known for their journalism school. It was almost overwhelming with how much they had on their main page that I didn’t really want to explore the website much further. The student spotlight section was different and and cool. Then I looked at the Daily Tarheel and the front page also had a lot of information but it was well organized and wasn’t overwhelming. I also liked that the weather for the day was on the front page. Everyone likes to see what the weather is gong to be like. Then I read the DM and I was so disappointed. It didn’t seem to have the spunk and excitingness that the other online newspapers had. It should have the most recent news on the front and not just have the same exact articles on it that the news paper had. There should be more. Nothing caught my eye at all. It was really boring.

  17. David Collier says:

    After viewing the various campus newspapers mentioned above, I have to say that the DM’s website needs some work. First thing I noticed was the “Follow Us on Twitter” on the right side of the page. The last post was from months ago. If you are going to go on social media networks, you need to keep the information up to date. In my opinion, I think it would be a good idea to have Facebook link on the website so that students here at Ole Miss can “like” it. Then, it is up to the editors for the DM to keep up to date information on their Facebook page so that various stories appear on people’s Newsfeeds. This will catch the eye of students and may attract attention to a certain story. After the student reads that story, they may be more inclined to visit the whole website dedicated for the Daily Mississippian. I just wrote my first article for the DM this week, and I think it is amazing how good they are doing. However from an outsiders view, the DM could look very boring. I believe it is important to get feedback as much as you can to make your product better. The only way a product works is if the consumer wants to use it. In this case, the DM must make sure their product is wanted by the student population here at Ole Miss. One other thing that would attract attention is to add a sports ticker to the sports page of the website that gives updated scores of any and all Ole Miss athletics.

  18. Marrissa Senneff says:

    The Daily Mississipian is well orgainized and easy to navigate through. However it is not eye catching or engaging. Using the school colors and emblem would make it more Ole Miss attractive. Right now it looks like any random online newspaper. The paper could use some interactive tools. Adding popular links, funny video of the day and some polls could make the paper more exciting. Doing this could bring in more everyday users.

  19. Nathaniel Weathersby says:

    The first thing I noticed when visiting each of the websites listed were the myriad of social networking links and how much was going on with the website. Unlike the dmonline.com those online newspapers had so many more links to news stories, sites, and advertisements. True, those school newspapers are located in towns were there is more going on but I feel like Oxford has as much to offer but it will remain hidden if we don’t cultivate it. The DMonline is not the worst but it could do better. I applaud those who all work on it constantly.

  20. Jade Amerson says:

    Although I understand that the DMonline has the best intentions, I feel that the website has a lot to work on. When viewing some of the other websites, it seems as if our’s cannot hold up to the competition. It lacks design and the layout is dated to say the least. Especially when it is compared to the DailyNorthwestern, which is well designed with color, layout and style. I mean can ours at least explode in the red and blue pride.

  21. Lee Morgan Gunn says:

    With the Northwestern newspaper website, I noticed that they offered multiple ways to find out about the current stories taking place in their community. Not only could you look at pictures from the giant blizzard but you could even watch a video of a snowball fight! The websites opening page is full of images that draw your attention in to want to learn more about them. When I visited the DM’s site, the lack of color and images on the opening page made me not want to explore the site much further. Compared to the actual paper version of the DM, the DMonline is lacking in it’s style.

  22. Taylor Kamnetz says:

    I actually write for the DM, and one day I was comparing the articles in the paper with the ones online, and found that a few articles were different from the ones in print. So, for me, the articles need to be original and the same as the ones everyone else is reading in their hands. Peoples vibe on articles can differ depending on how the words are ordered and spoken, so its good to be sure that they match on the website as well.

  23. Paris Crawford says:

    Until reading this assignment, I had only visited the DMonline ONCE. When I did, I was not interested at all. There are many changes that can be made. The DM has no vibrant colors. As chapter two stated in Media Shift, “Many people don’t enjoy reading on computers because a backlit screen causes eye fatigue.”
    The school newspaper is an exception. While reading “10 Reasons…”, I remembered an incident from last semester. The FRONT PAGE had a major blooper: a word in the headline was misspelled. It read, “Is three feet be enough?” So far, that is the only major spelling mistake I have (although I am sure there have been others.) Having a blog editor who faithfully executes his duties as the blog editor is very beneficial to the success of the newspaper. We should have weekly polls for students included in the paper to be taken on the website. These polls should include questions about the latest fashion, music, innovations on campus, etc. A cool addition on the website would be the “hottest” twitter post for the week. The website should allow the students of Ole Miss to interact with each other on the website. The Daily Princeton website kept my attention. They have a blog specifically for visitors to comment on ways to make them better or let them know they appreciate the website. The other school websites were good too. They were all better than Ole Miss. That is a problem that should be fixed.

  24. Adriana Mercier says:

    The difference between the DM website and the other well written websites is that the DM looks BORING. As soon as i clicked on it, I automatically thought plane and colorless. People like to see color and exotic titles. The website needs to be able to catch the eye. Also, I know that there is a column that says opinions for people to write about how they feel, but it is not very inviting on the DM. Readers need to feel like they are suppose to leave comments and state their opinions on certain events, and that website is just not very welcoming at all.

  25. Latisha Baker says:

    What do I look for in a online news site??? NEWS 🙂

    I literally do not read books anymore or anything on paper for that matter. Ever since I came in contact with the internet, which was exactly 07 or 08 I believe, I haven’t picked up a book since really. Beside mandatory college assignment reading, I do not use books anymore. The internet tells me anything I need to know. I can type in a question or a topic and find out just what I need to know. I mean honestly with the way the internet is now, there’s technically no need for books. If some one can prove otherwise, please do, but I just don’t see why they exist anymore.
    Now down to business, I look for a online newspaper to have everything a written newpaper has, ONLY MORE ADVANCED (GRAPHICS, DESIGN, COLOR, VIDEO, PICTURES)!!!!! A newspaper is known for being boring always because it’s BLACK AND WHITE! How can you expect anyone to get into that?! You can’t! You can not make people get interested at something that screams I’M BORING! If the front page doesn’t say something about some sort of scandal or something that’ll make your jaw drop. you can kiss a reader good-bye because what people have to remember is people like to read things that excite them grabs their attention, or can relate to them. Otherwise, THEY WILL NOT CARE AND WILL NOT READ IT!
    Now if I go online to a news papers website and it looks just like that news paper, NO color, NO colored pictures, NO interesting statement (story, picture, statement, person, etc.) jumping out at me, I will show NO interest.

  26. Lisa Bennett says:

    Compared to the other online websites, the DM overall is very put together, but it does not go any further than that. I does not “jump out” to the reader, or I guess you could say “make a statement” like the other online websites. Looking at the other online websites for the first time ever, I was instantly pulled in to check out what’s going on. Everything, like the DM, was well put together, but the other online websites were very inviting and interesting. In order to attract readers and keep those readers, there must be excitement, color, and fun to draw attention. We can all clearly see that the DM is lacking in style, and still needs to be improved greatly. Maybe adding color(s) and a different layout design would improve the look of the website. But all in all, the DM does the basics of getting the news out the students and staying on top of current events.

  27. Catherine Rodgers says:

    When I look at a newspaper’s website, I look for the top stories. In the DM I look for campus news, community news, and important world news. I noticed on the Northwestern website they had tabs devoted to campus and city news. Also, the top news was the first thing you saw on the home page. To make the DM more appealing, they may want to place big name stories on the front page. Also, they may want to devote sections to topics the students would like. Like music, movies, community events, and campus events. Maybe add forums where students can comment on what they would like to see or rate the stories and writers they like.

  28. Hattie Wheeler says:

    The Daily Mississippian online is well organized but it doesn’t catch the readers attention and allure someone to want to read more. I think the editor of the website or the newspaper should make it more exciting and energetic for the reader and that would make the popularity of it increase as well. I always look for the headlines of the paper or the titles of each article and if they aren’t interesting to me then I don’t bother reading them. I think they should improve the website and add more “pizazz” to it.

  29. Nori Moore says:

    Before this assignment, I had never visited DMonline.com. To be honest, the site is not very interesting. I think there should be more on the site that would draw students attention. Maybe articles about fashion, maybe a trending topic everyday for twitter would help make the site more appealing. As far as the other school websites go, The Daily Princetonian was the most appealing to me. I like how the site had tabs for every day of the week. In all honesty all of the other school websites seemed more appealing than ours.

  30. Mara Joffe says:

    I particularly enjoyed Northwestern’s website. The site seemed much more “together” than the DM or any of the other sites listed in the post. The site was engaging and offered multimedia that wasn’t months old (i.e. the DM). In my opinion, The Daily Mississippian has a long way to go both internally and in its online presentation before it can match up with any of the sites Alex listed.

  31. Jelan Kendrick says:

    The DMonline.com needs a little more life too it and something that will grasps the attention of the readers. I don’t know if it is because we don’t devote more time it or what not; but we could definitely add more graphics or designs or even color to make it pop a little more but other then that i believe that i believe that it is fairly good.

  32. Leah Tracy says:

    In looking at the other schools daily news papers compared to ours, I noticed how poorly ours is designed. in looking at the others, not only were they more appealing in sight but also extremly organized. My personal favorite was the Daily North Western. I liked this one not only because it looked good it was well organized and very easy to get around. I also liked that you had the ability to not only look at the daily news around North Western, but the Multi Media news. Having this Daily news papers web site set up the way it was gives the students a very simple way to go through the new and read exactly what they want to read.

  33. Lauren Lyles says:

    Since the only thing constant is change, I think the DMonline should not be satisfied where it stands. In comparison to other websites they have much more of an attention grabber setting based on color and themes. We are committing suicide due to predictable information and outdated themes. The customers who count are at The University of Mississippi, so if that goal isnt being met, than who are the customers. Let the talent of The University shine.

  34. Courtney Smith says:

    Just being honest, I am not a fan of the DMonline at all. I’d rather just read the physical newspaper. The site just bores me. It doesn’t have any graphics that brightens up the screen to catch your attention or anything. It just looks so dead. I think that it has a long way to go and that it shall get better with time.

  35. Betsy Baird says:

    Comparing the DM online to other university’s internet news source, I would say it is just as well organized and put together. The DM is crisp and to the point. However, to make some suggestions as a student, I would perhaps put more visually appealing pictures on the home page. Columbia Spectator does a good job of pulling the reader in with amazing pictures so does the Daily North Western. When looking at the content of the DM online, the website has everything in that aspect. In fact, the DM’s content and look impressed me more than the ivy league online news source Princeton. The DM’s content is appealing to everyone my only suggestions would be to add more pictures but still keep the look “clean”. Honestly, I’m not very familiar with blogs but the ones I’ve read on the DM were interesting, well put together, and the content was new. So I do not really agree with His take on universities blogs.

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