Thursday, August 14, 2008

Website media sections are old news

Humans love news.

While the channels we use to find out the news continue to change, most of us still need our daily news fix - details on what is happening in our organisation, our country and our world.

When I first became involved with the online space in 1995, an 'about us', 'communications', 'PR', 'In the news' or 'Media' section was already a common feature for many websites. Placing media releases online made sense as a method of distributing and archiving an organisation's news.

Today it is accepted practice that organisations include their media releases on their website. In fact, not much has really changed. Journalists go to an organisation's website media section to review media releases, or subscribe to a 'push' service such as an email list or RSS feed to get alerted whenever something newsworthy is released.

Some organisations have added press kits, official photos and executive bios. A few include transcripts of speeches or video. However for the most part there's been little innovation compared to the rate of change for other aspects of websites.

This lack of innovation was brought home to me in an article by Maish Nichani of Pebbleroad, Designing the Online Newsroom.

The article questions the traditional role of a website media section, today's audience is much broader than journalists and the needs of the audience have changed.

It makes the point that a website media section is no longer simply a feeder for media - it is an online newsroom in its own right;
The newsroom section in corporate and government websites is not just about press releases anymore and nor is it just for the press. The demand by a broad spectrum of customers to be updated on what’s happening at every front of the organization combined with the organization's need to promote and educate customers about new directions has expanded the role of the newsroom.

Maish suggests that organisations rethink the purpose of their website media section to address and engage a broader audience, and provides some examples of the types of content and features leading organisations are adding, such as,

  • In-depth features
  • Latest news stories
  • Interviews or customer stories
  • Speeches
  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
  • Videos

The article provides some excellent examples of organisations across the public and private sector who have developed online newsrooms, such as the United Nations, Nokia and Cisco.

It also provides a roadmap of how to rethink a media section and turn it into a more useful online newsroom.

I've passed on Maish's article to our media team to help support them in how they think about our online media section and are beginning to think myself about how we can use our media section more effectively to speak to our broader stakeholder and customer audience.

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