I’ve often used my hometown paper, The New York Times, to
exemplify the disconnect between digital publisher content strategy, the goals
of visitors and the resultant impact on advertising. The root of this
disconnect is the way search, social media and the landing experience fracture
content hierarchies. Behavior has changed and so too must the content experience.
Let’s face it, taking the 300 year old idea of a newspaper
and essentially throwing it on the web while likely the only option 13 years
ago is not optimal one for anyone today. So why has the optimization needle moved so
little in the right direction?
Huge amounts of traffic to NYT.com bypass the homepage. With
the growth of search, the opening of the Times content archive and the rise of
Social Media, success for the Times, its advertisers and most importantly its visitors, relies on the quality of the landing experience. The current NYT landing experience is quite simply dreadful.
It was a link from Social Media that brought me to this
page. Keep in mind I'm at 1440×900 so ideally I'm getting the most of this page above the fold.
After now having this awful NYT landing experience a number of times from Social Media and Search links I felt compelled to figure out exactly how irrelevant is the
content above the fold on the typical New York Times landing page.
New York Times Landing Page Irrelevance
- 622,740 pixels above fold (970×642)
- 145,500 pixels given to relevant content (485×300)
- Only 23% of the page above the fold dedicated to relevant
- 235 words (approx) on the page
- 60 of those words are the relevant content
- Only 25% of the words on the page (above the fold) dedicated to relevant
- 18 Distinct content areas (color coded below) above the fold (including the piece of content that is relevant to me). Many of these are navigation. Many have
multiple links. Really, do we really need two search query fields?
- Only 5.5% of the content areas on the page (above the fold) dedicated to relevant content
No "Next Click" in the Archive
I mentioned the Times’ has opened their historical archive. This is
an amazing contribution to the web (and the correction of another NYT digital content strategy failure, TimesSelect). These archive landing pages while
offering less clutter also represent another missed opportunity.
See this first New York Times mention of the Internet. It is a fascinating historical read but it is also a dead-end. Visitors landing on this page as with most of the archive have goals that are discovery. Yet, there are no
links to the subsequent 15 years of Internet related content! This is analogous
to Amazon’s product pages not having “add to cart” buttons. Even if this is exactly the content the visitor was looking for most of these visitors will likely hit the back button (to Google). This is simply
inexcusable strategically and poor business financially.
The Times needs to do better. Its future depends on it.
Spending less time selling ads on the front page and more time into creating better digital experiences offers their best hope