Thursday, 8 July 2010

When searchable headlines go mad...

The plight of the sub editor is an oft-heard tale; there aren't enough of them, template pages are killing the art, etc etc.

And while sharing their pain to an extent, it's something that has never really hit home, not being a sub.

But gradually, over the years of growth of news on the interweb, I have come to relate to their issues.

Google. Google. Google. That is all we seem to here now from web gurus across the news globe. Your stories must be 'Googleised', or 'Googleified', or whatever the term is that they shout in my ear and which just doesn't seem to register, having not read 'What iPCmacbookpad?' this month.

Yet this morning, two things on the Daily Mail website caught my eye and summised my growing affection for those bods who sit and correct our stories day in, day out, for little recognition (let's be honest, the amount of changes they make to some copy, they deserve a byline).

Firstly, the Daily Mail site was among the first to cotton on to the benefits of being found by Google, i.e. appearing first in any search gives you the overwhelming majority of clicks from searchers.

So it adapted the way it wrote headlines for stories appearing online, which is fair enough.

However, with other news outlets catching up fast, the Mail has continued to grow its efforts, and quite frankly, the site is becoming one gigantic Google hub.

Repeated links are EVERYWHERE - see a grab below, which shows only a small section of the front page.

I realise it's not very clear, but basically, the Daily Mail homepage seems to have become a page containing hundreds of stories, with hundreds of links to those stories, everywhere!

Apparently, this will score massively with Google, but at what cost?

I do wonder whether anyone reading this site is with me when I say that I get quite frustrated with the same stories appearing everywhere when I'm looking for something else to read?

I've read the top story, so why link to it another four times on the homepage, in prominent positions? It baffles me.

But that is not the only 'Googleisation' tool that concerns me. The tailored headlines are now so ridiculous they take up half the page!

That headline, to me, is just too damn long.

Yes, I can see that includes loads of things people might be searching for; I can understand (despite the protestations of our web chap that it is dreadfully complicated) that people probably do search for 'Kylie concerts' and 'cocktails' a lot - and probably together a surprising amount too.

But was it really worth it for a four-deck headline that just looks a bit silly? I'm probably living in the dark ages (probably?) but for me, it wasn't.

I'm in no way averse to the joys of having a really popular website, but I do still hold a strong amount of pride in the presentation of a story, regardless of whether it is on a piece of paper or a monitor.

So I do share the pain of a sub when I see headlines like this. Where has the skill gone?

Yet as if the web people at the Mail were aware of my growing sadness, they provided me with something to laugh at...

Lovely. Thank you.

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