As custodians of our Web sites, we strive to provide engaging stories, blogs with attitude, and slideshows and videos to go along with game results. But the difference between a good sports Web site and a great sports Web site might be only a few clicks away.
Al Toby, sports coverage editor for Yahoo!, says efforts of writers, editors and photographers are admirable, but if we overlook regularly updating Web sites, then our staff’s dedicated work might be irrelevant. The lack of fresh content is the biggest mistake – "by far" – that newspapers make with their sites, Toby said.
"When people go to your Web site throughout the day, they expect to see stories that have been updated, or breaking news," Toby said last month in Sacramento during the APSE West Region meeting. "If newspapers neglect providing fresh content, readers probably will go to another site to get what they want. Don’t be afraid to juggle – stay fresh."
Getting those readers to return to a site that has not been updated then becomes a problem.
Toby, the moderator of the convention’s "Don’t let your Web site suck" seminar, urged editors to refresh content on the Web as often as news happens, and quickly. He suggested editors take a television-like approach to changing stories on their Web sites. Look at peak times such as noon and prime-time hours to update your site, Toby said.
"Showcase your staff’s work. Make it prominent on the page," he said, explaining that a Web page should be treated just like a page for the print product.
Toby also encouraged editors to make stories available to readers through RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. He explained that RSS feeds act as a clearinghouse – readers create a Web page and subscribe to stories on specific subjects from a variety of sites. As the stories are posted on the Internet, they are delivered straight to the page the reader has created.
"Do not underestimate the power of RSS feeds," Toby said, adding that the use of RSS feeds is growing rapidly. "Users get the news they want and the updates they’re looking for, and newspapers get credit for clicks on that story."
Photo galleries, videos and blogs are other components that will drive readers to your site – and keep them there.
For the beginning blogger, Toby advises reading other blogs such as deadspin.com or thebiglead.com, as well as Yahoo! sports blogs. Learn the tone of the blog posts and create a unique voice that suits the subject.
"But don’t let your blog become a dumping ground for notes and statistics," Toby said.
And don’t be shy about linking stories and videos, especially from YouTube. Along with slideshows and photo galleries, editors have more tools to drum up interest for their sites.
"You can concentrate on what you do well, but editors must remember to update throughout the day to have a shot at making their site successful," Toby said.