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The Washingon Post's ombudsman defends the new site after angry emails

The Washingon Post's ombudsman defends the new site after angry emails

The Washington Post launched the redesign of its website during the weekend of March 11, which included a new Tumblr, according to Mediabistro.com. Now, only two weeks later, its new ombudsman, Patrick B. Pexton, has already had to issue a letter explaining the website's $7million changes.

This letter is in response to an actively angry reader response to the site. Pexton claims he was "deluged... with reader emails," and that they "ran about 8 to 1 negative." All emails, he promised, were sent to the tech team.

What exactly did readers have to complain about? After all, that same system is currently used by the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, and the Seattle Times, to name a few. EidosMedia's Méthode has become the platform for many major news corporations.

The site was designed to be more multimedia friendly. It contains more videos. Its goal was to be less confusing. The old site was less formatted. As the Post's Tumblr put it, "It was great for the thing you came for, but if you wanted to look around, it was kind of a mess." The design also had a moderated comment section, with the most insightful comments being moved to the top. Top stories are also highlight on the home page.

Many users were displeased. Including emails to the ombudsman (users had trouble finding the "Contact Us" page to tell of their frustration to someone more appropriate- one major complaint), users vented their frustration on the site's Facebook page. Complaints included faulty links, hard-to-read fonts, the inability to leave comments, and hard-to-navigate links. Another common complaint was the lack of local news links.

Users disliked the new look as well. Some called it "horrible," others "like every other small town newspaper website," and "like a hack blog [readers] can't trust." Not everyone hated the new design. Mediabistro.com's Lauren Rabaino said, "The new design is much more modern and clean than the old homepage that looked like something out of the late '90s."

Pexton informed readers the site's glitches were being fixed. He quoted Raju Narisetti, The Post's managing editor for online, who said, "I am a big believer in newsrooms and news Web sites being in permanent 'beta' as we try to constantly improve the user experience. With that being said, yes, there were and are, and likely will continue to be, some tech troubles in these early days. And we are working on them."

To explain the reason it changed, Pexton said, "It's helpful to understand that The Post is not really a newspaper company anymore, although most of its profits still come from the printed newspaper. Instead, The Post is a digital information factory that delivers its product, the news, through multiple conveyances: newspapers, computers, 'smart' phones and, now, tablet computers such as the iPad."

He added, "The Post wants its online readers to be faithful -- to find enough interesting material that they want to come back every day, stay a while, appreciate the site's individuality and, yes, put up with its quirks as they learn to live together for a long and happy life."

Sources: EidosMedia, Facebook, Mediabistro.com, The Washington Post (1), (2)



Meghan Hartsell


2011-03-28 18:21

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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