Teaching Examples

Portal, schmortal
January 5, 2007, 3:56 pm
Filed under: business, journalism, online

About two years ago, the online editor of a roughly 50K-circulation daily newspaper told me his publisher wanted him to undertake something like the third Web site redesign in two years — because the publisher wanted the newspaper’s Web site to become a “portal.”

I laughed then, and told the guy to tell his publisher he was nuts. They had an online staff of two, total. They had no freakin’ content except what came straight out of the printed newspaper. Portal? This is a joke, right?

Today I found some ammo that the poor online editor could have used then: Internet Portals Fighting For Relevance, from PaidContent.

This comes on the heels of the much-ballyhooed debut of DayLife, which is nothing if not a news aggregation portal. The site is running slower than an old dog today (I just counted 30 sec. to load the home page on DSL!), but last night it was quite nice, in an eye-candy pretty sort of a way. Being a Flash junkie, I quite enjoyed it. My biggest complaint? There was not one single “cover” story I had not already seen and digested earlier. My second complaint: As I surfed around in different categories and lists, I saw a lot of repetition. It got boring fast.

It was like receiving Time magazine on Monday when you’ve been reading The New York Times the whole previous week. Ain’t nothing in there you don’t already know.

And what is the new Placeblogger site (I mentioned this yesterday) if not a portal? At least they have a well-defined niche — unlike DayLife.

People in the journalism field have got to stop grasping at straws and chasing buzz words. Making a “portal site” is not the answer. Providing useful and interesting content, analysis and information is — and in a usable, fast-loading (please!) format that is properly searchable, dynamic and linked in meaningful ways. (DayLife has done some pretty cool stuff in regard to linking content, by the way. That may well turn out to be the site’s greatest strength.)

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3 Comments so far
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I wouldn’t declare the death of portals just yet. The St. Pete Times switched to the TampaBay.com portal-type layout not too long ago, and it’s doing quite well.

Comment by Danny Sanchez

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Comment by What's Happening Right Now

Hey, Danny, I would not call TampaBay.com a portal. To me, it looks more like what a local news and information site — what we might call “a newspaper Web site” — really ought to look like. Trouble is, most of those look like a newspaper and are damn hard to use (and often ugly).

A portal, in my view, would take me to a lot of different sources of information. TampaBay.com only takes me to TampaBay.com content.

That said, it’s a nice site, and a huge improvement over the St. Pete Times Web site. (I wonder why they don’t ditch that thing?)

Comment by Mindy McAdams

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