Friday, April 25, 2008

Rating The Web Sites for Cleveland’s TV News Channels

Just what you've been waiting for - my review of the web sites for your favorite local news channels. One of them gave me a migraine. Each channel's home page can be accessed by clicking on the channel name/station.

WOIO Channel 19
This web site screams cheesy and sleazy. When I looked at the home page early this afternoon, on the upper right side, there was a video that touts “ Hookers, Johns, Busted During Prostitution Sting”. A photo for the video shows a woman with her flimsy T-shirt pulled over her head, exposing flabby, saggy belly fat. Sorry, but I really don’t need to see that. The web site is also heavy with ads, which seem to be scattered all over the page, taking up what seems to be 75% of the space. There are so many things on the page that it’s hard to find any meaningful information quickly. One can get the weather and headlines if you look around for it, and there are drop down menus to access other sections. Clicking on the “news” drop down menu gives one too many choices – I counted 32. Contact information for station employees can be found at the “contact” tab, with bios and email information for on-air reporters and anchors. I spent some time looking at the weather page and I swear I started to get a migraine from all the boxes and color and business of the page. This layout and color scheme doesn’t make one feel like lingering.

If you come to the site for news, you’re better off going somewhere else.

Grade: F (and don't forget your Imitrex)

WKYC Channel 3
The home page is very easily navigable, with news headlines, weather, traffic, and school closings immediately visible in the top half of the page. Ads are minimal. Scrolling down brings sections for other news, local news, Akron-Canton news, etc. and it’s easy to identify the headlines within each section. Besides being able to navigate the site via tabs near the top of the page, there is a side bar to the left for other key topics or for user tools.

The Sports section looks a little too generic. In fact, all the pages beside the home pages look like they were put together years ago when stations first had web sites. The weather pages are only marginally better, with very little imagination used in layout and color. This was the biggest drawback with WKYC’s web site. They need a major update of their site to something that looks like it was actually designed in this century.

I looked for bios for the on air people but couldn’t find them easily. I finally located them on the “contact us” page, by clicking on the link “Want to send an e-mail to a reporter? Get their addresses here.” By the way, it was easier to find the sex offender link, which is on the same “contact us” page.

Always a sore spot with me is when, during a newscast, you’re told to go to the station’s web site for more information. For some channels, that’s like falling into one of Dante’s circles of hell. But, WKYC actually has a heading on the left side for links mentioned on the news.

Grade: B (Update May 23, 2008: WKYC has since changed their web site - it's much better.)

WEWS Channel 5
The home page is well organized, with top stories clearly evident and accessible. Ads are on the page but are not overpowering and seem off to the side of the main content. There are many areas to access headlines for news, entertainment, videos, and weather at a glance, and it proves easy to find what you want and to navigate. There are also tabs near the top of the page to help reach the web pages for more detail on things like weather, video, and Akron-Canton information. These tabs are sandwiched between a row above and below of other buttons which seem to link to glorified advertising pages (example, the Travel tab). I couldn’t find a tab for traffic information, and I even looked on the weather page. I could be there somewhere staring me right in the face but I couldn’t find it. There is also a link to contact information for people at the station at the top of the home page, but I couldn’t find links to bios for the on-air people, only finding their email addresses.

For a station that touts “The Power of Five “ and seems to love cutting into programming for weather news, I found their weather pages disappointing. It just seemed so…so… average.

Sports has very detailed coverage, with top line local sports news at a glance, and tabs for national news by sporting category.

Quite a few times my browser had trouble loading pages for this site. It was the only site of all the local channels where I had repeated problems, and this isn’t the first time this has happened to me here.

Grade: B+

WJW Channel 8
Fox has the advantage with a web site that is standard across all Fox stations, so no matter what Fox channel you’re on in the U.S., you should see pretty much the same format. It's crisp, clean, and well organized, with colors that are very easy on the eyes.

Advertising is present, but is not intrusive. At the top of the home page, you can actually close or open the banner ad space. But, there aren’t many headlines on the main page, so one has to click on one of the tabs at the top to get the news headlines. One can also use the horizontal scroll for the headline box on the left of the page, but sometimes I found the scrolling speed to be too fast. Maybe it’s my heavy-handed mouse clicking? It seems too cumbersome, though, as I don’t like to do too much work to see the main headlines.

The one nice thing about the Fox site is it has blogs for viewers, allowing them to have their own content and photos on Fox’s site, and also to be able to comment on blogs written by on-air personalities. It’s a great way to get viewers to interact. I couldn’t find this feature on any of the other web sites, so if I missed them I am sure someone will let me know.

Weather and traffic are both easy to find. The weather page provides probably the most information of any other local web site, and I like the 8-day forecast in pictures. It just makes a boring topic look more interesting.

The Sports section included the top headlines has sub sections for specific sports. All we need is the video of Tony Rizzo slipping on the ice and it would be perfect.

Grade: A-

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Anonymous said...

To find the bios for the NewsChannel 5 personalities, you would have to click on the "NewsChannel 5" tab, and once you're there, scroll down and look for the "NewsChannel 5 Anchors and Reporters" link.

Enjoy said...

Ask and you shall receive.

All Things Cleveland said...

#1 Thanks for the information! Now I see how I missed it.

#2 Thanks for the video link. I had no idea that video was on the Fox 8 site. I swear seeing it never gets old!

Anonymous said...

I think your assesment of 19 is unfair and shows your bias towards the station. Their site is pretty good, it has lots of videos and sometimes live feeds. While Ch 3's site hasn't changed much since it was laucned and looks like it was created a by some 17 year old in high school made it.

Dan said...

Thanks for the Monday morning pick-me up, anonymous. A 27-year-old actually designed the site, which was done in the fall of 2005. That was our third design since launching in 1999.

Thanks for the fair review, All Things Cleveland. We strive to be easier to use than other media sites, including the ones you reviewed.

WKYC is about to roll out a new site that addresses some of the issues you raise, as well as offering some features not found on other local media sites.

I'd love to get feedback on the new site -- I'll send you a link by the end of the week.

All Things Cleveland said...

Dan, thanks for the feedback. I'm looking forward to seeing the new site!