Continuing from our theory lesson on internet-related news from last week, we have, today, focused our attention on the importance of content, design and layout in terms of web-based and online news.
First of all, the important facts which any journalist or news writer or our time should be aware of are: that our world now has the largest target audience ever- both numerically and proportionally. This is probably one of the most vital points to make because it means that more people than ever now have access to the news. Also including the fact that depending on the tone and language used within any article can broaden any target audience or number of views.
But it’s not only the tone and language used within an article that earns its popularity; all the comments sections on online news websites nowadays prove that ‘every consumer is a producer.’ This was a factor which made me realize how many news websites nowadays have these comments sections- which seem to cause some massive debates and even opportunities for people to know more from that area than the article themselves. Sometimes these comments can even be longer or hold more information than the articles themselves.
This mainly applies to social media networks such as Facebook and (especially) Twitter. This also ties into shareability and how any online news story or article must be available to share on social media and other news websites in order for it to gain its value and even- as proven by the comments sections on them, learn more about a story. This fits perfectly in to how the target audience for the news is larger than it ever has been and that in order for such a large quantity of people to read an article, it must be made available in every way possible.
However, in order for an article to stand out, important things to consider are the use of hashtags (#) and key words alongside having at least 2 or 3 visual or interactive pieces within the article. The reason for this being this case is because many people today have very short attention spans and even ‘spoiled eyes.’
This is a result of becoming so used to computers and pretty much any technological device with a screen and due to this, along with the short attention spans, an article with no interactive element to it will not be nearly enough to retain or attract readers. It’s the interactive element of the article that gets the eye involved more with it and actually has a chance of getting the mind of the reader engaged too.
Although, it’s not just the visual elements that draw readers into reading a news story. Because of the shareability that is associated with modern online news websites, the number of shares and likes that are part of the process definitely plays a role in this because a story has a high number of likes and shares on social media then it must have value if it’s: been shared, has that specific number of likes and has been read by a similar target audience to the person who has found it. No one wants to be left out!
It also turns out that the news piece or story shared has its value maintained via the number of likes, comments and even further shares.
But most of all, and one of the main factors of attracting readers, is the layout of the news page. It MUST be: pleasing to the eye and everything must be spread out- both of which relate back to the spoiled eyes and short attention spans of our generation. If all the information is in just long blocks of text with all the pictures and interactivity in another section, the reader will then severely loose interest in the article from the overwhelmingly little amount of aesthetics or even being unable to relate the pictures or videos to the right information.
‘Link economy’ is another major part of any web-based article because it means that if an online news story or any online content gains value it will also gain inward and outward links. For example, if a piece links to other pages, several will link out of it which is known to make it easier for others to find it more easily. Also, links can be provided with likes on social media or the news comments page and as a result, raises the popularity of the article/content.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an element of online news that allows further gathering of more readers for the website or news piece/article and must be promoted in the most appropriate way. But it also means making your content show up on the search engine (hence the name!)
This can be done by using key words which are either repeated and/or most prioritized to date. The search engine Google prioritizes these key words and as a result, prioritizes the website or article and increases the article’s visibility. This can, however, make or break the content if it doesn’t get prioritized- it simply gets forgotten.
One important thing for us to remember, for future article analysis and for producing our own articles is HOW an article promotes its existence to the news-hungry audience of today. For instance, every article that exists should or does already carries some method of easy-sharing method so that the article’s popularity from likes and shares can be increased even more from networks such as Facebook but especially Twitter.
A range of different forms of multimedia should be used to not only engage the reader into further reading of the article but to also spread out the different forms of it and result in this further reading. References and hyperlinks throughout the article or at the end of it can lead the reader to related stories which can form the pathway to find out more about a topic and even provide further shares, views and likes.
During the introduction of ‘reading patterns,’ the idea of this clearly indicated that it shows roughly what parts of an online article the reader’s eyes are engaged on first of all and when they are. This process normally turns out to be in the form of a letter F:
The left shows us that the reader first reads in a horizontal direction, which is represented by what looks like the F’s top bar.
In the middle it shows that the direction still continues as a horizontal movement but moves further down the page- as represented by the second bar.
As for the final part which forms the stem of the F, the reader scans the content in a vertical movement with occasionally slow and systematic scans.
Because of these reading patterns, this will be sure to aid us, especially me, to ensure that we place the information for our own articles in places that we are certain the reader’s eyes will hit.
Following on from the reading patterns, there were some statistics which told us: on average, web users spend 80% of their time at the ‘above-page-fold’ (the only part of the website that’s visible when the reader lands on it). However, only 20% actually pay attention to what’s below the above-page-fold.
Adding on to this, 69% of readers look at the left-hand side of the news page whereas only 30% look at the opposing right-hand side.
Including reading patterns, the overall design and layout of the web-available article, I came to the conclusion, along with a few others, that the top part of the article (the images, active headline and possibility to share stories) is probably the most vital part of the whole thing because that is what determines whether or not the audience will progress to the rest of the story or not and also what the target audience is likely to be.
All of this, however, presents the truth that from the way people read online articles and how long the spend on these forms of news that they are constantly expecting everything to be given to them and laid out in front of them.
it’s not just the news that this applies to either; our generation are used to having everything done for them everyday. For example, calculators do all the numbers we could possibly need and word-processing softwares that correct all our grammatical and spelling errors for us. These are only examples as to what technology has trained us to instantaneously expect, which these normal everyday things. This proves that modern technology removed the challenge of performing normal everyday tasks!