What journalists want in your website

Posted on February 8, 2009 
Filed Under Journalism

In my previous guise as an online journalist, I used to be very frustrated with corporate websites that lacked the immediate background info needed for my stories.

Very often they didn’t even have a Newsroom or Media section or the UI or search was so clunky it was impossible to find stuff like when the CEO was named the CEO, the company’s headquarters or specifics on when a product was launched.

Thank god, Google came along and made search within sites easy with the operator site:abc.com.

In training, we emphasise the need to have a Quick Facts or FAQ section specifically for the media. When archiving, make press releases searchable by quoted exec, topic, brands, product, service and date can help ease the journo’s job.

On the other end, we teach simple Google tricks which go beyond just typing what you want in the search box.

Useability guru Jakob Nielsen interviewed 40 journalists to get their views. His conclusions are a worthy read:

Journalists are not gullible, and they don’t take a company’s own word as truth. Indeed, almost all journalists said that press releases were useful only to find out how a company is trying to position itself. We strongly recommend that PR areas have links to external sources, including press coverage; journalists often consider articles from independent newspapers and magazines to be much more credible than a company’s own press releases. We’ve seen similar findings in studies of prospective customers evaluating products on consumer- and business-oriented sites, so links to external press coverage can also help promote sales.

The top-5 reasons journalists gave for visiting a company’s website are:

* Locate a PR contact (name and telephone number)
* Find basic facts about the company (spelling of an executive’s name, his/her age, HQ location, and so on)
* Discern the company’s spin on events
* Check financial information
* Download images to use as illustrations in stories

This basic information must be easy to find and should be cleansed of the marketese and excessive verbiage that smother the facts on many sites. Journalists don’t have time to wade through deep, complex navigation trees or sift factual wheat from marketing chaff. In particular, pages must present information in well-organized chunks that are easy to scan. Distracting animations and irrelevant stock photography don’t help journalists who are in a hurry to find the facts.



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