In-Depth Site Reigns Supreme
In a year when some great newspapers finally got their acts together online and Yahoo News became a genuinely useful portal, MSNBC.com remained king of the hill.
The site’s monthly numbers show it lagging behind Yahoo News and cnn.com, but it’s highly ranked by readers who regularly get their news online, according to a Pew Research Center study. One reason may be the site’s in-depth, multimedia presentations and partnerships.
MSNBC.com’s “Rising From Ruin” microsite, for example, which follows two coastal Mississippi towns post-Hurricane Katrina, included reported features, citizens’ diaries, audio slide shows, and RSS feeds. In one moving piece, an elderly couple watches a bulldozer demolish a 100-year-old chunk of their home. The project took top honors for best use of multimedia in the 2006 Online Journalism Awards, administered in part by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication; the site also won for general excellence.
In 2006, msnbc.com began distributing online feeds from political networking site HotSoup.com after the first hour of NBC’s “Today” for free, and launched a mobile news service with video that also supports banner ads and streaming video ads.
It’s not just cool projects that bring readers to the site — nearly 27 million of them for more than 26 minutes each in November 2006, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. It’s also the quick and reliable news, often the most up-to-date on the Web.
Yahoo News follows close behind, both in terms of sheer numbers and utility. The site features some of the most easily navigated and reliable news sections around. The end-of-year launch of “You Witness News,” a citizen-journalism project with Reuters, marked a new level of commitment to user engagement.
The BBC’s site stood out in 2006, taking first prize at the Webby Awards among news sites. The site provides diverse international content and doesn’t shy away from new media, offering podcasts, news feeds, and service for mobile phones. NPR.org, while not exactly a haven for marketers, secured a spot on this list for its rich multimedia offerings, including podcasts, audio clips, and Web-only content.
Regional news sites thrived last year, fitting in an era of targeting and extra effort to secure so-called consumer engagement. One of the best was NewWest.net. Launched in 2005 by Jonathan Weber, co-founder of The Industry Standard, NewWest covers the Rocky Mountain region with a distinct voice and engaging features, benefiting readers and local advertisers alike. It relies heavily on freelancers and citizen journalists to compete with established papers, such as the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. In the middle of 2006, NewWest reported 100,000 unique monthly visitors.