Every day, millions of people rely on local news sites, stations, papers, and radio stations to update them on the important events occurring around the world.
In a huge metropolis such as Chicago, journalists have quite a large task before them- covering everything in the city (and let’s face it- there is always a plethora of news in big cities) as well as important statewide news while still informing local citizens about key events occurring in the nation and the world. It’s quite easy to conclude that the Chicago Tribune has their work cut out for them.
Luckily, the design of their web page is a good start for almost any internet surfer; the Chicago Tribune offers a simple, easily-navigated layout with very few advertisements to distract readers. The main page focuses on popular stories, such as local football scores, record-breaking weather, and local news.
Unlike many other news sites that seem to make it a goal to send readers into seizures, the simple layout of the Tribune also means very few advertisements. While using multiple browsers, only one pop-up advertisement was detected, along with a simple (tiny)advertisement for Target department stores in the upper right-hand corner of the main page. The main, most noticeable advertisement on the site is one created by the Tribune for their “ditigalPLUS exclusives,” which upon purchase grants readers access to more stories as well as more in-depth coverage and interviews of other news events (yes, it’s an advertisement for their paywall).
Following what any journalist learns in the first week of classes, the organization of the site is very clearly in “inverted pyramid” style, which positions “important” and widely read stories (such as sports) at the top of the page and stories like “How to spot used car flood damage” at the bottom. This organization not only helps readers find important information and breaking news but it also helps to lure people in; important stories have links to other (possibly less important) stories, which link to other interesting pieces. Ultimately, the reader spends more time reading than was originally intended, and the Tribune has more opportunities to offer up exclusive content behind their pay wall.
Although no concrete information on revenue generated by the Chicago Tribune could be found, complaints often appear on their Facebook page of the appearance of a strict paywall after five premium stories (which can be located by a blue plus sign next to the headline, as seen multiple times here) per month have been read. After the limit has been reached, readers are prompted with an option to pay $14.99 to receive the digitalPLUS package. Paper subscribers also have the option of paying $2 more per month in order to receive access to the exclusive online content offered by the Tribune.
In addition to the main stories down the middle of the page, breaking news stories line the right-hand side in short headlines that allow readers to quickly decide whether the story is important, applicable to their lives, or just plain interesting.
For those who have to read on the go, the mobile access to the website is arguably among some of the best in its field, offering a very simplistic layout that won’t slow down smart phones while still maintaining all of the same content as the main web page. However, the main page of the mobile website does feature a banner advertisement, which is larger (comparatively, for the screen size) than the advertisement for Target on the first page.
Although the layout of the Tribune is superior to almost any I’ve seen, this hasn’t really changed the types of people who are attracted to the page; similar to many news websites, the key demographics of this long tail site include mostly males from 35-49 years of age who make above $100,000 per year (as of 2010).
Perhaps in an effort to keep things simple (and faster for smart phones), multimedia usage on the website remains fairly basic with pictures laid out in almost the same way on every page, little to no slideshows, and minimal (in comparison with some other news sites) usage of video footage.
User-Generated content, giving readers a chance to share their own opinions and receive feedback from other users, can be located under the “opinion” menu at the top of the page. Here readers can find articles, blogs, and letters to the editor written by fellow users. Readers are given the option of “tweeting” a story or sharing it on a Google+ page; interestingly enough, there is no option for sharing a story via Facebook, even though the Tribune utilizes the social media website daily.
All in all, the Tribune’s website makes up for what their Facebook page lacks, and there are absolutely no complaints here.
What do you think about Chicago Tribune’s simplistic website? User-friendly? Outdated? Leave your comments below.