Wick Communications

Home page is no front page

In Design on May 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Does your front page really matter in a digital age?

The question comes up because more and more people are finding their way to our stories online without first stopping at our home page to browse. Perhaps you never thought of it this way, but that home page is the de facto front page of your digital operation.

In fact, Google’s Richard Gingras said recently that three-fourths of unique visitors to online journalism come from “external sources” – places like Facebook, Twitter and gosh only knows where. If that is the case, it means readers are clicking only what interests them and are not swayed by your placement of a story in your news mix.

Great. I was putting too much thought into our front page anyway. Now I can just throw a bunch of things against the wall and let them fall wherever they will on the page… right?

Well, no. In fact, I can think of several reasons to continue thinking of your front page as your regular masterpiece of reporting, writing and design. …

  1. Rack sales. In order to attract readers in the ever-more complicated media landscape, you better have an attractive front page, with a good mix of stories and compelling art.
  2. Professionalism. Readers are sophisticated and used to seeing really beautiful displays on billboards, laptops and even their cell phones. A well-designed front page carries gravitas and an air of professionalism that delivers unspoken cues to your readers, sources and advertisers.
  3. Setting the agenda. Placement in the newspaper has long conveyed an editor’s notion of what’s important in the world around us. News on the front page is often thought more compelling than that on page 6A. The space above the fold is prime real estate. Don’t give away that power.

The digital production of news has profoundly changed just about everything, including the way we used to think of our front page – better known to many as our home page. While readers are coming to our editions through the side door, it’s still important to put our best foot forward. Those front pages still matter.

Clay

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