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What Works in News Websites

Jon Friedman, Senior Columnist for CBS Marketwatch compares top US business news websites in an article on Murdoch’s takeover bid for Dow. It’s noteworthy for insights on Web usability issues:

Wall Street Journal, which Murdoch covets for its high quality and prestige, has built one of the most admired Internet sites around. WSJ.com reflects the newspaper’s commitment to excellence in every phase of its operations. No wonder it could boast 931,000 subscribers by the end of the first quarter.

The Journal’s site features some of the most sophisticated blogs and graphics anywhere. Shrewdly, it stresses interactivity, one of the keys to success in the Internet world.

Given their pedigrees, it’s no surprise that the Journal, the New York Times Co. and the Washington Post Co. have all assembled strong Web products.

By contrast, the biggest problem with CNBC’s Web site is that the newsiest information on it reads a little like a virtual ad for … CNBC. I was unimpressed after I clicked on to CNBC.com‘s Web site on Thursday afternoon at the close of trading. I was bombarded by a mishmash of news headlines, information about a contest, lots of data and the Question of the Day. (“Is the Spider-Man franchise too naughty for a preteen audience?”) There was also a notice about Online Currency Trading, which may have been a story or an ad. At a quick glance, I wasn’t sure.

And all this stuff fit on one computer screen! I was almost too exhausted and bewildered by then to proceed to the bottom of the page. But I pressed on. The most surprising thing I saw there was that someone had misspelled “controlling.” (“CNBC’s Faber: Murdoch Tries to Win Over Dow Jones’ Controling Family.”)

Now, all journalists make typos all the time (me, God knows, included). But in a case of unfortunate timing, the spelling error occurred in a headline/blurb to tease Faber’s big scoop — about how News Corp. had made a takeover offer for Dow Jones, one of the greatest moments in CNBC.com’s history.

Jon’s full article in context can be read here.

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