July 1997

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The Web and the Paradigm of the Front Page

by Flora J. Garcia

Organizations involved in creating news sources on the World Wide Web struggle with many of the same issues that have challenged traditional information presentation formats. In addition to the difficulties print media face, placing news online introduces new and sometimes severe limitations for both the reader and the producer. These limitations include inconsistent interfaces among users, physical comfort issues, and a reduced amount of real estate to be used for information. The lessons learned in researching newspaper readership and story penetration should be considered when designing for the online format, as should established structural principles.

This article looks at online news delivery within the constructs of traditional newspaper and interface design and feedback issues. It concludes with suggestions for better generation and projection of news online, using dimensional representation among other organizational methodologies.

Newspapers join Web sites of other media outlets, advertisers, special-interest groups, freelancers of all forms, students, mail-order companies, cottage industries, television jingles, and more information than a evolving culture could possibly use. Yet despite the potential for combining strengths of the Web--including the ability to update frequently, to place sound and video next to text, and to make connections between stories and other sites-- newspaper sites generally fit in among the less advanced offerings of the Web. In addition, the ease with which readers can use a newspaper's interface is not transferred to the online environment.

"Is the World Wide Web the Fourth Media, a technology positioned to take its place with the big three--print, radio, and television--as a mass-market means of communications?" asked Internet World publisher Paul Bonington in his April 1995 column. "It's hard to create an argument against it. The Web has all of the social, technical, and economic fundamentals which could help it achieve this prominence," Bonington answered. And news on the World Wide Web offers an opportunity to take what newspapers have learned about packaging, presentation, and the mechanics of readership and apply it to -- an evolving format.

[] Mings describes a reasearch project into reader response to online newspapers.

Flora Garcia ( is production manager for TIME Online in New York and recently handled the development of a major Web site on Hong Kong's handover to China She received a master's in journalism focusing on new media from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996 and a bachelor's in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1987. She has worked as a picture researcher for Time-Life Books, a newspaper reporter, copy editor and designer for several newspapers in Florida and North Carolina, and served as Campaign '96 editor for The Nando Times.

Copyright © 1997 by Flora Garcia. All Rights Reserved.

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