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101 Ways to Improve Your Site

Here are 101 ways to improve your news site. How many does your site do?

This list is from Cyber Journalist. Take a look and then add your own great ideas to the original list. I’m using this as a way to stay accountable to the 101 points.

  1. Post a form at the end of a breaking news story asking witnesses to send in details of what they saw — and then add the information you can verify to the story.
  2. Use trackbacks
  3. Geographic location known
  4. Invite anyone in your community to write Weblogs for your news site
  5. Take the best content from Weblogs on your news site (now that you’ve got so many) and publish them in your newspaper.
  6. Integrate headlines from your competition into your Web site
  7. Create deals with other newspapers in your state to share content at no cost. Then stop paying for The Associated Press and hire new newsroom staffers with the savings.
  8. Create games around the news for wireless devices
  9. Get the people behind the glass doors to require that at least 10% of all deals print/TV-side ad sales folks make include online components — or else they don’t get their bonuses.
  10. Give everyone in your company one day off a month to work on whatever project they want or simply just brainstorm new ideas
  11. Build a real estate database and section so detailed and useful it becomes the MLS for your community. (
  12. Create a staff development plan so that everyone in your company gets pertinent online news training within the next 12 months.
  13. Design your registration system so that you have an easy way to get updated information when people move, so your data stays more valuable to advertisers
  14. Give people who register for your site incentive to keep giving you updated information.
  15. Ask readers their interests when they register and only serve them ads related to them when they visit your site.
  16. Offer a subscription where people can view the entire site ad-free for an extra charge.
  17. Double the size of all photos on your site for a week. See how readers react. Wanna bet you decide to keep at least some of them larger permanently?
  18. Don’t just add “Discuss story” links to stories — include the comments at the bottom or on the right rail of the page and make them part of the visible story
  19. Create two different home pages — one with dayparting and one without — and deliver each to half your users randomly, and compare
  20. Put only local news and content on your home page
  21. Let every reader create their own “reader home pages” where they can pick what stories to lead with — and let them be public and make it easy for other reader to bookmark them.
  22. Promote something online that will be in the next day’s paper or on the next newscast — and then don’t post that story online
  23. Set up a service so that readers can get alerts any time a story they’ve already read gets updated — or corrected
  24. Create RSS feeds focused on niche topics your site covers.
  25. Design an algorithm to automatically hotlink the names of any major newsmakers in your community to bio pages and recent stories about them
  26. Build dedicated pages for every neighborhood in your circulation area with useful local information, links and related headlines from your site automatically pulled in
  27. Create online memorial pages for every obituary — not just those of celebrities — so friends and relatives can post their memories.
  28. Create an army of citizen reporters to help cover hyper-local news your organization has abandoned, like community meetings or Little League games.
  29. Have every reporter on staff spend a day only writing and producing for the Web.
  30. Offer readers inning-by-inning or quarter-by-quarter SMS game updates for major local teams.
  31. Create a local crime database searchable by zip code and street address — and integrate it into your online real estate section.
  32. Create a local school quality database searchable by zip code and street address — and integrate it into your online real estate section.
  33. Put your city or state’s restaurant inspection database online — and integrate it into your restaurant review section.
  34. Ban all forms of intrusive advertising from your site for good
  35. Let your readers post certain classifieds for free.
  36. Critique your Web site — along with your newspaper or newscast — at the beginning of every budget meeting
  37. Use your Web site to avoid censoring content — i.e. put any gruesome war photos online behind a disclaimer, rather than not publishing at all
  38. Package all your best travel material into a special site aimed just at tourists for your community
  39. Spend an entire week only getting news from your web site (no newspaper, no TV, no other sites). Write a list of things you felt you missed out on, and then figure out a way to get that on your site.
  40. Buy a TiVo for your newsroom so reporters can pause and rewind anytime there’s breaking news on TV — or a live press briefing — and get exact quotes.
  41. Create a daily morning e-mail aimed at teens and 20-year-olds that summarizes the news in a hip and lively way
  42. Build a feature into your site enabling readers to add notes to any stories on your site, like Amazon’s new site does.
  43. Offer free access to all your archives to newspaper subscribers — but only to subscribers.
  44. Offer readers access to real estate ads a day or two earlier online (or send via e-mail) and charge extra for this access or limit to print subscribers
  45. Develop a database of e-mail addresses and phone numbers of readers who you can tap for quotes when writing stories on deadline
  46. Offer an online coupon section
  47. Click-and-buy prints option on all online photos
  48. Have readers send in photos and make slide shows from them
  49. Pick the best posts on your message boards and highlight them in separate features — or on your home page — so readers don’t have to dig through
  50. Create timely special packages from archived content and sell them to sponsors
  51. Set up online town hall meetings (i.e. chats) with local political candidates
  52. Create Web-based publishing tool so classified advertisers can enter their information themselves, saving you work (should still be proof-read)
  53. Find another media company in town to partner with… Find a media company from out of town to partner with
  54. Create a downloadable MP3 section and let local bands upload their tunes for readers to download
  55. Create multimedia obituaries online and charge extra for them. Then
  56. Create multimedia wedding announcements online and charge extra for them
  57. Use the Weblog format to cover a breaking news event
  58. Figure out which writers or TV reporters always write too long for air or the paper and offer them an online column
  59. Have popular columnists supplement their regular column with an e-mail extra… Only let newspaper subscribers get it
  60. Let readers vote on their favorite local school sports player and give winners a symbolic award
  61. Have newspaper or station top editor send e-mails to all e-mail subscribers occasionally to let them know how the newspaper or TV station is improving
  62. Hold short story contests and print winners online
  63. Tell stories through online games created in Flash or other tools (i.e. let readers try balancing the budget)
  64. Tell an entire story that would normally be written in plain text entirely through a slide show
  65. Instead of linking bylines to e-mail addresses, link them to staff bios with photos and e-mail info so readers get to know you
  66. Sell prints of your front pages online, plus current and back issues
  67. Make online display ads interactive — games, quizzes, etc — to grab readers attention (and of course charge extra for these!)
  68. Offer special fan e-mail newsletters for local sports teams
  69. Give all reporters digital audio recorders and digital cameras to take out on stories to get material for posting on Web
  70. Wire all newsroom telephones to a recording system so reporters can easily record phone interviews (after asking sources’ permission) and put online
  71. Send readers news alerts through instant messenger tools
  72. Allow advertisers to put photos online with classified ads and signal to newspaper readers to go online to see them
  73. Create special news alerts for whatever topics are hot among local readers
  74. Create topic-specific photo galleries on random, fun topics (dog slide show; smiling people slide show; etc.)
  75. Use the Web to ask readers for fresh ideas. Actually read them. Choose at least one and actually do it.
  76. Rotate content on your home page based on dayparting usage.
  77. Get someone to audiotape big local high school sports games and post the sound online
  78. Have sports writers blog live from local school sports games they’re covering
  79. Have everyone in your organization trade jobs with someone else in a different department at some point
  80. If you’re the boss, work the worst shift/job on your team for a whole week. Watch your employees respect leap, and your knowledge of your newsroom grow.
  81. Develop an online corrections policy (or reassess and improve one if you actually have one).
  82. Add online elements to your company-wide ethics policy (or create a company-wide ethics policy that covers the web if no policy exists)
  83. Make sure all ads are clearly labeled. For real.
  84. Create a reader-appreciation week and have no pop-ups or animated ads all week.
  85. Offer readers an ad-free version of your site for an extra cost
  86. Give local politicians or newsmakers or experts Weblogs on your site.
  87. Link datelines on all stories to pages with maps and information about the location (perhaps on a partner encyclopedia site)
  88. Create a whole special section online for younger readers. Find local student journalists to help write for it
  89. Create a special section on your Web site for readers who speak a different language (that has a large population in your area); translate some stories and write special features for them
  90. Create a site-wide disaster coverage plan
  91. Make training a priority and figure out a way to give everyone on the staff some sort of training within the next year
  92. When local big shots die, set up online memorials on your site or via
  93. When print or TV journalists contribute something impressive to the Web site, applaud them in front of the whole company — maybe post their work for all to see — to encourage others to do so
  94. Create internal companywide awards for good online work
  95. Launch a public service project online, tied to some ongoing issue or project in the community; invite readers to submit their ideas online and pass them on to the local government
  96. Create a template in Flash or another tool for a breaking news multimedia package so that when big news happens, you can slap it in and publish before the traffic spike has passed
  97. Cut the number of links on your home page in half. See if your traffic and page views change at all.
  98. Offer readers a way to save articles they like on your site for later reading and create a personal page for them with all of those stories
  99. Interview your reporters on major stories and post the audio or video online
  100. Have reporters answer reader questions online (live or not) about a big story and then post the answers
  101. Let readers vote on their favorite stories and photos and post those lists online
  102. Each afternoon post something on your home page telling readers something special that will be in the next day’s newspaper or on that evening’s newscast. Don’t post that online.
  103. Do at least one thing on this list.