Work Memo No. 3: The World Wide Web

About the importance of a strong and user-friendly online presence. Even the Periodical Publishers Association’s Consumer Magazine of the Year needs a good website.

RADIO TIMES — WEEK 4

This Tuesday at the weekly print magazine meeting, we did something a little different after going through what long-term projects people were working on for upcoming issues. At the end of the meeting, Tim pulled out a sheet of paper and, ever begrudgingly, mentioned a mandatory “meeting evaluation” that we had to do. According to him, it was being mandated by the top managers of the Radio Times to gauge how well departments were working together and as a self-evaluation of how to improve.

The setup was similar to all those self-reflections and group project evaluations I’ve become familiar with in the J-School. We had to note what was going well, what could be improved upon, suggestions for the future and how we were feeling. After some snarky remarks about how the meetings were good because it didn’t feel like real work and how next time there should be biscuits, we got to things that could be improved upon. The biggest concern was the website itself.

On the one hand, I was familiar with this kind of discussion because as a reporter at the Missourian last fall, we had these kinds of talks pretty much every day. We learned not only reporting, but also presentation as a print and online publication. On the other hand, I thought it was interesting that this sort of conversation seemed to be the first that the Radio Times team was having. The major criticisms about the site is how non-user friendly it is (limited search function onsite, not enough related content, poor linking and redirection from article to article, etc.). When the new website re-launched several years ago, apparently Tim and Paul had noticed how it still had its major flaws. But even with their suggestions to make it better, changing the user interface takes a lot of time and effort to jump through the bureaucratic hoops and get something changed. That, and updating a website in and of itself is time-consuming and needs a lot of preparation work.

We did talk about some improvements that we could make in the meantime while Tim continues to work out the usability situation. Things like getting analytics about weekly readership will help us all understand what people are reading and what they want out of our content. In the states, I feel like having a good website and presentation is very near the top of important things in a publication’s success, alongside actually having good content. I did a story for the Columbia Business Times about the sheer number of firms that specialize in modifying and enhancing local business’s websites to improve image and function. Considering the Radio Times magazine just won magazine of the year for best consumer magazine last night at the industry Oscars, it seems it should be a priority to step up the website component as well.

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