The Bivings Group‘s recently released Bivings Report of the top 10 US newspaper sites in 2008 consisted of:
- New York Times
- Washington Post
- Wall Street Journal
- Florida Times-Union
- Philadelphia Inquirer
- USA Today
- St Paul Pioneer Press
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Arizona Republic
- Columbus Dispatch
The study, which picks the list based on usability, design and web features of the US’ 100 largest newspapers, is purposefully limited to covering US-based, newspaper sites.
But as one commenter on the Bivings blog says, ‘No Mention of any of MY best news sites’ – he then goes on to list his own top 10, including Huffington Post and EveryBlock (which another commenter then takes as the Bivings’ list).
Is comparing like-for-like really that useful – newspapers aren’t just competing with each other – or other mainstream news organisations – anymore. What the Bivings Group rates the sites on may be completely different from the readers’ criteria – particularly if these comments are anything to go by.
It reminds me of this Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) study from 2007, which found a different news agenda on UGC sites than mainstream platforms (e.g the agenda decided by journalists).
Users’ online agendas are different (and that’s not to say news organisations should completely adhere to UGC inspired schedules – that’s a debate for another day) and influenced by a plethora of different online sources. As such their expectations of newspaper sites will be shaped by the other tools and information websites they use. Ranking newspaper websites against each other won’t deliver the kind of comparisons that these sites can take away and use.