There has been some good discussion around our post about how newspapers can improve their web presence. Below is a breakdown of additions to the list suggested (or inspired by) readers. Comments are mine unless otherwise indicated. I’ll update this post with new ideas I come across.

Original List

1. Start using tags.
2. Provide full text RSS feeds.
3. Work with external “social” websites.
4. Link to relevant blog entries.
5. Get rid of all registration.
6. Partner with local bloggers.
7. Offer alternative views of your content.
8. Modernize your site’s graphic design.
9. Learn from Craigslist.
10. Make your content work on cell phones and PDAs.


11. Allow Readers to Comment on Every Story [Via Micropersuasion]. I think this is a great idea although for some papers it may be unrealistic. It would take a lot of time to manage all the discussion that is generated. But if the paper can pull it off they should. It will help them build a Digg style community of users. This ties in to some good advice from Thomas Power: Become a social network.

Note: In our study we found that 13 of the top 100 U.S. papers were already doing this.

12. Improve Search Features [Henry Miller]. The search functionality on most newspaper sites is terrible. I actually resort to using Google News as an alternative if I’m looking for a particular story.

13. Use Better HTML [Joe Clark and Old Grouch]. From the looks of things, lots of papers haven’t jumped on the CSS bandwagon. Implementing cleaner HTML would improve load times for users and ultimately save money by reducing server load. A related issue noted by Angelos is the abuse of cookies by newspaper site. Why use five when one will do?

14. Focus on Local and Regional News [Mike Driehorst]. “Unless it’s of significant, historical or national importance, don’t put national/international news on your front page.” Most papers value is in their local coverage – focus on that.

15. Open Up Your Archives [Old Grouch]. Many papers only keep 10 days of content up on their sites and/or charge for older content. Making more of this content available for free would be a great service to researchers and also help serve up more page views.

16. Provide Multilingual Versions [Gabrielle Tonelli]. A few papers we looked at in California were doing this. It’s a good idea if it is economic feasible. The audience for every website is ultimately global.

17. Offer Supplemental Content [Bruce Bartlett]. Reporters do loads of research when writing stories. Why note post some of the extra stuff on your website? Bruce writes that it “would both make the web site more valuable and improve the credibility of newspapers. It’s really insane to just reprint the same material that is in the print edition.”

18. Open Up the Letter to the Editor Process [Building on #17]. Why not just post every letter you receive instead of just the 2/3 that make the cut for the print edition? Associate them with the relevant article and let us know which articles are getting the most comments. This would have the effect of turning your site into a townhall of sorts. Only problem with this is that many letters come in still via regular mail instead of electronically.

Thanks for all the comments/ideas. Please post additional ideas below and I’ll update this entry periodically.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.