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Archive for June, 2011

Online Design

Now, I have spent a bit of time talking about blogs, but I said in my introductory post that in this particular blog, I would also be talking about issues relating to design and publishing, so I thought that I may as well start with the basics.

Although many of the design principles and features of print media are able to be transferred into an online format, it is important to remember that they are two very different mediums. The presentation of online news must balance traditional design principles with the new capabilities of the online format. Although, interestingly enough, most online producers focus on the content of a news site, rather than with its layout.

The first important thing to do is make sure that your readers know where to find what they are looking for. With a printed newspaper, people tend to know the rough order of stories, and where to find what they are looking for, whether it is world news, sports or the comics. But if they don’t know where something is, they can just check the contents page.

With an online medium,  there is no contents page, so the page needs to be presented in such a way that makes sure that the reader knows instinctively where they need to go to access what they are looking for by having a clear presentation.

I personally really like the layout of the Australian‘s website (www.theaustralian.com.au). Not only do I find it aesthetically pleasing, but I like the way it doesn’t give too much focus to images and that it’s ‘above the fold’ links include not just major stories, but breaking news and opinion pieces.
However, my favourite aspect would be the contents listing in the banner across the top of the page. Not only does this make it really easy for anyone to find what they are looking for quickly, but it is organised so well that even when you click on a heading, there are sub-headings within each category.

So, what news sites do you find most user-friendly? Do you prefer more content-based sites, or image and video based ones?

Comments and Online Discussions

Something that I particularly love about news articles being available online is the ability for people to comment on stories.

With a hard copy of a newspaper, there is really only the ‘Letter to the Editor’ option to have your opinions heard, and only a few of those are ever published. The ability for anyone to comment on stories means that the author is able to gauge public opinion. However, online news sites have capitalised on their almost unlimited space by sponsoring online forums and comment threads on key stories, as well as introducing online polls and surveys. Many news sites also encourage readers to submit their own pictures and/or information that might be used in the news production process. This level of audience involvement in the news process is unprecedented and is a major draw card for news consumers.

Tell me – whether you are a student, journalism professional, or just someone interested in the world around you – do you like the interactive element of online media? Do you think that everybody being able to give their own personal feedback and commentary is a good thing, or does it simply make journalism less professional?

Credibility of Authors

Well, I thought that seeing as I started talking about the credibility of both authors and sources of information in my first post, I would continue that discussion here.

The thing about having a blog means that anybody can write what they want, regardless of facts. Some can be commentaries or observations on a particular subject, or they can simply be more of an online diary, but many blogs are written by professionals or experts in a particular field, and the information you find may be a useful resource. This can also be applied to general news sites. Obviously the more reputable ones are the ones you have probably come across before, particularly with a hard copy of their paper, but with new ways of accessing news, such as news.google.com, you need to be a little careful in trusting what you read.

However, some useful tips when checking the credibility of information are:

1 – Check the Date – sometimes information can be really accurate and informative, but the thing with the internet is that data is permanent, and as such, what you are reading may be wildly out of date.

2 – Research the Author – yes, people often use aliases or don’t put up an identifiable name at all – but often there are professional journalists (or other professionals) that are just elaborating on their stories and will put up their name and as such, a quick Google search will allow you to recognise that this person can be a trusted source of information.

3 – Read comments – often other readers will point out inaccuracies (if there are any), or just generally comment on what is discussed in that post.

4 – Strength in Numbers: try to find the same general piece of information or idea somewhere else, so there is a supporting argument. Even if both of these are less than credible sources, there is a better chance that it’s not just some crazy person making things up on the spot if someone else is saying the same thing.

Of course, all in all, you should just use your common sense.
Yes – material to be found on the internet in general is becoming more and more credible, but there is still a lot of unverified information that people are posting all over the place.
But if something doesn’t seem right, then you should go with your gut.

Blogs and the Community

Before I really get into the different issues associated with online publishing that I started to talk about in my last post, I wanted to take a moment to look at blogs and how they have changed online media and the community in general.

After all, the term “blog” has been in our vernacular for over a decade now, and the way that something anybody can write is suddenly public domain, means that social commentary and the media in general has been significantly affected.

For starters, many bloggers, particularly those engaged in participatory journalism, differentiate themselves from the mainstream media, while others are members of that media working through a different channel. Some institutions see blogging as a means of “getting around the filter” and pushing messages directly to the public. Some critics worry that bloggers respect neither copyright nor the role of the mass media in presenting society with credible news. Bloggers and other contributors to user-generated content are behind Time magazine naming their 2006 person of the year as “You”.

Blogs also have the potential to have rather enormous consequences. In many oppressive governments, such as China, Burma, Sudan and Egypt, there have been many cases of bloggers being imprisoned or even deported for sentiments expressed in their blogs.

Given that blogs have been around longer than social media sites like Facebook and even MySpace, I think that blogs are really what started the true phenomenon of personal thoughts and views no longer being personal.

Introduction

Welcome to all my readers…

This is a blog in which I will aim to discuss blogs in general, as well as issues relating to newspaper design and publishing online. Now I know that these may not always seem like interesting topics, but there are actually some interesting aspects to these topics.

According to blogpulse.com, there are over 164 million public blogs in existence, and despite many people believing that blogs are past their heyday, there is still a new blog created every half second.

Now, although we all know that online news and publishing has changed the way we access and interact with media, some of do not quite realise how or why.

Yes – everybody knows that having the news on the internet means that we get it all as it happens with constant updates as more information comes to light, etc. But there are also a lot of negative implications associated with online news. Issues such as the potential lack of credibility of the author or the sources from an article. While a lot of online news comes from a newspaper’s own website, many other stories come from individual blogs and a lot of people tend to take what is often someone’s opinion or assumption and believe it to be fact.

Anyway, this is just one of the many things I will cover in my own blog in entries to come.

Stay tuned

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