I was ambivalent when I drew Yahoo News out of the basket to be my newstrack website. On one hand, I had been hoping to discover an exciting new site (which Yahoo was not), but on the other hand I held out hope that Yahoo would pleasantly surprise me.
It didn’t really.
I definitely think that Yahoo and other aggregate sites have their place in the news world for casual readers, but I think they could use that role to deliver really great content – and they don’t. The biggest problem I found was a lack of discernment. If Yahoo would be a bit more selective in what content they push out, rather than just dumping everything they receive from AP/Reuters/etc, their website would drastically improve. The biggest example of this is their photo slideshows.
They do a fairly good job of putting the serious issues (and lord knows we’ve had plenty of them worldwide over the past semester) front and center, but the “Most Emailed” box shows that Yahoo readers are generally sharing fluff pieces with each other. That seems to be true of most news sources – the most emailed on the New York Times or Washington Post are similar. I hope that means that people read the serious stuff, but then share the lighter material. I’d be very interested to see some statistics tracking pageviews per article rather than number of times emailed.
After reading several of my classmate’s final thoughts on their own sites, it really seems like the online news world is full of opportunity – chances to shoot to the top in the future but also, in a lot of cases, missed opportunities. With The New York Times already behind a paywall and The Boston Globe (and who knows who else) soon to follow, online news in the next couple years is really anyone’s game. It’s going to the site that successfully manages a tricky balancing act – putting out the quality, multimedia content people want, either for free or a reasonable price; being easy to navigate; and cutting back on annoying ads while still making money – that wins.