All the News That’s Fit to Search Is Kinda Stale

What if a news organization, employing professional journalists, wrote their news website like a wiki? Robert Niles over at the Online Journo Review wond’red aloud in a 2.26 story. Yeah, yeah, we know, The LA Times did it and failed miserably, but that’s not what Robert was getting at. He argues, or at least posits, that newspapers could use a wiki-style approach in some capacity in order to better optimize for search engines (‘cause, as he notes, many online news sites are a little behind the times when it comes to seo beyond the meta tag days).

“I’m not talking about turning over the page to readers,” he writes. “I’m suggesting that — instead of distinct daily takes — news stories could be covered with encyclopedia-style articles that staffers would update with new information whenever available.”

He goes on: “Online newspapers generally continue to follow a print-designed publishing model, shoveling piles of individual new ‘takes’ onto the Web each day, never to be updated or cross-linked to future articles on the same story. Inbound links don’t do a newspaper much good if they take readers to an outdated story, with no clear way to guide users to the publication’s most up-to-the-date content on that topic.”

Robert offers an example that when a user searches for “Iraq war” on Google, a CNN listing ranks way up, but it’s a story from 2003! Yikes…. “What good is that to a reader in 2006?” asks Robert. “This CNN page isn’t news … it’s history.” It’s an old “special” section that features some pretty antiquated info and a top-left o’ the page “headlines” section with links to more way-old stories. That could have very easily been a section with dynamically-served links. Sure, the content may still be relevant, but you get his point.

It seems to me that an internal system that allows editorial to tag stories with topic keywords would make a whole lotta sense. And cents – which is what this is really all about. Obviously, a link to a new story would drive more traffic than one to an old one. Maybe online papers are relying on search engine news search/portal areas to drive this traffic?

As one who still prefers the old-school print paper, but reads lots of news stories online, I have to say the idea of a wiki-style approach to the presentation of news doesn’t really appeal to me. And, I’m not sure we want journalists to start updating stories willy-nilly, as in – hey, just got a call from so-and-so and he says that quote from joe schmo is bunk….

However, incorporating tagging and other new media approaches to presentation/updating while maintaining the all-important editorial checks, seems to be a good, if not inevitable way to go about keeping up with the…uh…times.

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