Birmingham, AL, New Orleans, LA, Cleveland, OH, and many other places -
I recently filled out an online survey for the local newspaper and the online company that publishes news for Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama. The survey was basically asking for my input as a reader of al.com, the online edition of the newspapers for three of Alabama's biggest cities. While a bit too lenghty, the questions in the survey were actually good. By contrast, the online news is presented very poorly.
The Advance Internet News
There are several news outlets that I had noticed online that use pretty much the same template so I looked into the matter a little more, discovering that Advance Internet is the company that produces all of these very sub-par publications. Cities included in this list are New Orleans, Cleveland, apparently the whole state of New Jersey, some of Michigan, some of Pennsylvania, some of Oregon, and others including the three cities in Alabama mentioned above. A quick look at these web sites (all listed at advance.net) shows that they are the same layout, different words and pictures.
(Okay, I obviously do blog with a free-blogging host and a commonly used template. But for my level of involvement, I don't see any comparison.)
Good News Websites
If all newspapers online were like these, there would be no problem with the paper subscriptions seeing any drop in subscribers for the paper delivery. A comparison of these generic websites with other newspaper websites with which you are familiar demonstrates the obvious difference in quality, presentation, and in most cases, the ease of use. The expectation does not have to be a website as polished as The New York Times or The Washington Post, but something of quality should be the goal with a unique design. Is that asking too much?