Like Nick, I visited washingtonpost.com, no caps, just like it says on the website (like it says on the address bar…those guys are tricky). I also noticed the google bar right away. Unlike Nick, I don’t think it has anything to do with post.com having a desire to be a web portal per se. I see the google bar as a sort of web site status symbol. If you’re gonna be hot these days, you’ve gotta get with google. Beyond that, washington post probably uses the google box allowing its employees to better use its intranet.
The links down the side broken down into categories are OK, helping me drill a bit faster to find my info. But the real gem of washingtonpost.com is mywashingonpost.com, which is entirely customizable, (like most newspaper websites these days). I figure they make these customizable things for a few reasons. The first is that people like to see the news they want now, not have to drill through a mess of links to find it. But second, and I think this is more important, is the idea that it takes a pretty long time to set up a customized news page. Maybe 10, 15 minutes. Once I do that once on washingtonpost.com, I’m not gonna go to USAToday.com and NYtimes.com (the post’s biggest competitors in the print/online newspaper world) and do it again. That is, what seems like a silly ritual is at once both a barrier to entry and a user retention devices. But what do I know.
Anyway, some other things I noticed about the site: The weather box on the right hand side. We’ve all seen these, you enter your zip code and they tell you the weather. I dig ‘em, ‘cause I’m always wondering about the weather, but I never use ‘em, which tells you something. If I’m at a comp. I go to weatherchannel.com, and if I’m near a tube, it’s Local on the 8’s baby. I’m not sure how useful these things are, but they’re nice nonetheless.
I agree with Nick about the registration gig. It’s free, yeah, but it’s a pain. Just be happy I’m *looking* at your ads.
I drilled into some content, Kornheiser on the baseball union, to see what the post would give me. On the right hand side were your typical “related stories” links and the obligatory poll question “With their offseason acquisitions, which team has given themselves the best chance for a World Series title?” This is what passes for participatory journalism these days. In the middle of the page, about a third of the way down, was an ad aimed right at me, wrapping the text of the article around it. From a media consumer’s perspective, this is about what I’m willing to deal with for advertising on the internet. An inoffensive ad that my eye pretty much has to look at, but not necessarily actively see, mixed in with the content I’m after, i.e. Kornheiser’s editorial.
At the bottom of the page is a bar identical to the one at the top, linking to news, op-eds, sports, art/living (why those two got stuck together I have no idea), and entertainment, along with links to the classified section and a message board. They only real reason I think this is interesting is that the 5 links (news through entertainment) are not the same as the categories running down the left side of the page. The first four are identical, but running down the side has no entertainment link, just on top.
Anyway, I agree with Nick that washingtonpost.com has a pretty effective site, and the money confirms it, they invested a significant sum to their online presence. Plus, far from the standard “content dump” from the print to the online, they have a solid online staff which is relatively autonomous from the print version, which plays a huge part in the success of an online news portal.