Saturday, March 01, 2008

WJMA - Some News is No News

Bless their little hearts. The folks at WJMA seem to be trying their best to get their website up to speed, and I want to give them credit, but still....

Longtime readers know that I've been using our local radio station's website as a starting point for several discussions on what not to do online. Even if it won't benefit WJMA, perhaps it will help some others with their business or organizational websites.

The other day I talked about the long-awaited arrival of staff info on the site, and how it missed the mark. Today, the news is that there's news!

It wasn't always this way. Until about the end of February, the local news page has been blank, save for a date of November 9, 2007.

The good news is that news is being loaded to the page Monday through Friday. The bad news is that whoever's in charge of the website at Piedmont Communications still has no idea of what to do with this Interwebtube thingy.

In our example (pulled from Friday's site), there are three stories (or "headlines" as their called on the site). The style suggests these are just the first lines from the radio news broadcast.

Why is that bad? Because they don't tell us anything. As teasers they're fine. But these are lead-ins that don't lead anywhere.

"Judge Edward Carpenter denied bond for a Culpeper man who held police at bay for 2 hours on Wednesday in the White Shop area."

This is the Internet -- where's the supporting info? Who's the Culpeper man? What happened Wednesday that held police at bay? Where's the White Shop area? Why did the judge deny bond? This headline gives me no information, and no way to find out.

Here's a web-friendly version (which took about five minutes to do):

"Judge Edward Carpenter denied bond for a Culpeper man who held police at bay for 2 hours on Wednesday in the White Shop area."

Now I have a link where I can find out:
1) What happened on Wednesday
2) Who the Culpeper man was
3) Where the incident took place
4) More details about Carpenter's ruling

And that's all it takes. The headlines on WJMA's site are only useful if they lead to more information. They don't. Which leaves us with just enough of the story to be frustrated by the lack of any further detail.

I know I've said many times that "content is king," but perhaps I should revise that. Quality content is king.

WJMA may be putting more content on their website, but it's not going to add to their traffic.

And one other thing.

I don't know when this story took place. We've gone from being perpetually stuck in November 9, 2007, to having no date at all. When did the judge make this ruling? Friday? Thursday? February? 2008?

The prominence of the copyright notice leads us to an unfortunate (and erroneous) conclusion: "copyright 2006." So first-time visitors to the page would conclude that these stories have been sitting here for two years. And with no links to provide context, why would they think differently?

- Ralph

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