Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Websites say as much about you as the content

Put another way it's all in the packaging. I got a ping from this site here CrazyLeaf Design Blog, which lists some very lush sites.

Many of them are professional web site developers, but deserve oggling at.

Can such aesthetics be transferred to the state of journalism? This is not a simple style over substance debate.

The last few years have been rich for the online journalism industry and there's more than enough proof that says a well presented website can have the same trust value as the first 15 seconds your job interviewer uses to size you up.

Googling "uk best journalism sites" I came across a post from media pundit Roy Greenslade: US websites expose lack of British innovation.

Citing a number of US examples, such as TalkingPointsMemo that combines strong journalism and crowd sourcing, Greenslade comments:
"In Britain, sadly, there is no innovation on the scale of these many US-based examples. We are, as so often, way behind America in such matters. We are still wedded to centralised mass media, clinging on to models created in the 19th century."
While Greenslade acknowledges some advantages the US have over the Brits, for example US journalism is more geared to the regions, the point is there's innovation to be had online.

Where's the Innovation
In 2005, posed a similar question to me about innovation and the US and UK in an article "site for sore eyes".

Here's a section:
How do you think the journalism industry in the UK compares with the US?

In any society people will resist change because it takes them out of their comfort zone. In comparison to the US, the UK has a limited number of broadcasters and newspapers so there is less diversity in content and personnel. Combined with our sometimes parochial outlook that means we're more resistant to change, but it is happening.

At some point, journalism is going to be overcome by technologists. In the US there's a bigger playing field - probably more venture capital and a can-do attitude.

I really look forward to ten years down the line when this industry will be so different - shaken up by bloggers and massive niche communities online.
It's generally difficult to generalise, but you'll be hard pressed not to find a voice of dissent amongst UK online Journos when it comes to British online innovation.

That doesn't necessarily mean there's a crisis, and yes there's outstanding talent aplenty here. Otherwise you can always invoke the "Grass is Greener on the Other side" excuse.

Ask the odd US journalist and they may well look to the UK for inspiration.

So what is it?

Is the Scotsman, that veritable title's online revamp which attracted more than enough opprobrium: Scotman's website and embarrassing flop, a glitch or symptom of the tensions between creativity and business?

I came to know its former editor Stewart Kirkpatrick from ONA meetings so putting a face to his blog in which he warned his bosses of their dire new website, resonated.

I posted my first site in 1995. It looked like it needed a dandruff shampoo. But we were all experimenting back then.

This film from my colleague in the same year shows what the Guardian, Times and Telegraph were doing.

And the designers in us are still experimenting.

It's just a shame somehow rightly or wrongly we fail to trumpet our own innovations and that of independent voices such as, which does it's own sterling job reporting what's happening this side of the big pond.

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