Monday, May 21, 2007

The R-J is good. The LVRJ.Com is lousy.

The Review-Journal does a lot of good work. There are certainly Pulitzers to be won in this town and but they'll never be won by this publication because they don't believe in putting the resources where it would matter, but from day to day we get the basic news out of them and occasionally we're even delighted.

The ReviewJournal.Com, however, is an utter disaster. I do not know of another mainstream newspaper Web site as ridiculous as this one. It is clear that it is not managed by journalists because there is never any indication on the Web site which stories the newspaper believes to be the most important or interesting. It's just, largely, an unattractive listing of headlines, and they frequently don't give much insight as to what the story's about (Would you be burning with desire to know more from seeing just this: "Crash Course: A Lot of Trouble"?)

If the headlines are in any particular order at all, then we're led to believe the newspaper thinks the TV and radio listings are the fifth most important thing happening in our city today. Really. Go look for yourself. The interface is about as user-unfriendly and unattractive as it possibly could be. And when it comes to multimedia, never mind. Corey Levitan's I-Am-There pieces are accompanied by some video, but I have no doubt that was Corey's idea and that he puts in the effort to make that happen.

Let's take as an example today's top story in the newspaper, a jailhouse interview with a priest accused of attacking a parishioner. Why isn't there some video of it so we can judge his demeanor? Or a podcast of the conversation, so we can hear the conversation for ourselves? For a newspaper whose editorials routinely attack the government for not trusting the people to make their own choices and so on, the newspaper is awfully paternalistic about how it metes out information.

The reason I rant about this today is because I wanted to spotlight in my prior post Arnold M. Knightly's excellent work scouring the filings of public gaming-related companies to determine the compensation of Vegas' top gaming bosses. In the newspaper, two-thirds of the front of the Business section is devoted to an attractive layout of mugshots of the 11 best-paid execs and a breakdown of their salaries.

It's fun to look at. I wish I could show you in a better way than the photo I post here. (You can click on it and it gets bigger, but I'm not sure it's readable.)

But I can't because didn't put that part of the project up. All they posted was the story itself. Knightly does a fine analysis of the information, but it mainly focuses on Wynn, Lanni, Loveman and Feritta. I'm not finding fault in what Knightly chose to include in the story because he knew he had the backup of the graphics to tell other information, such as the intriguing fact that Sheldon Adelson, the third richest man in the world, was only 8th with $5.8 million in total compensation and a paltry $1 million base salary, the lowest among Strip bosses.

And here's more proof that the geniuses behind this Web site aren't actually even reading what they're putting up: They posted a breakout box next to the story itself online with the blurb that Knightly wrote to explain the graphics and their numbers to the readers. The blurb makes no sense without the graphics.

The only conclusion is that the newspaper, a decade-plus into the Internet-journalism revolution, still has little respect for you, the online readers. That would explain why they very rarely update the site during the day, why they have no blogs or podcasts, why there's almost no Web-only content of any sort.

(UPDATE: The R-J has now posted the breakout graphics for the piece with the info that was missing for half the day. No telling whether they did so in response to this posting or just because someone figured the afternoon was a good time to post information from the paper from the day before.)


James in Henderson said...

You tell 'em. So pathetic.

Charles said...

Right on with your critique of the R-J website vs. print editions. Beyond the lack of information architecture and basic usability, the R-J's pages render with tons of errors on non-IE browsers. It takes a lot of time and resources to design and code 'print designs' into web designs that render properly on all platforms/browsers. Any web developer/ui designer who doesn't do user testing and quality assurance before launching a product as large as the R-J's online presence is just plain lazy or amateur hour.

It's not just the secondary media markets that fall victim to this folly (bergere?)- The Washington Post recently unveiled a redesign which has been skewered by its readers and fully thrashed by information architect guru Edward Tufte.

Hiring a proper creative director and a designer/information architect with superb web typography skills would solve a huge chunk of the R-J's UI problems.

Gregory_Zephyr said...

I like it. All I do is scan the news and business headlines. If there's something that catches my eye I will click on the link to read the story. Otherwise, I move on. Usually only takes 10 seconds. Of course, any information-oriented website that wants to make a profit should aim to keep me around as long as possible so if that is their intent then I agree it doesnt do well. But if the goal is to get people in and out as fast as possible, perhaps an even better design would be to put a single headline on the home page: "Move along. Nothing to see here!"

Anonymous said...

It seems to get worse everyday.
Maybe its a way of increasing the newspaper sales? Whatever it may be, they have to get their department in order, they are falling right in to place along with the clark county courthouse.