Banjo Jones notes some recent ratings of newspaper websites by Douglas McIntyre of Wall Street 24/7.
McIntyre is not a fan of Chron.com, giving the site a D+:
This site is a bit of a mess and is as good an example of what not to do with a newspaper site as any in this survey. The navigation across the homepage includes twenty five tabs some of which are labeled poorly enough so that it is hard for the reader to understand what they are. The front page really does not have a headline per se. The stories at the top of the page are features which don’t appear to be chosen to compel the reader to go further into the website. Some of the stories near the top of the page are from the Associated Press, an indication that the editors don’t feel that they have enough compelling content of their own. The stories do have the basic social network and reader interaction tools including the ability to comment on stories and share them on Twitter or Facebook. The large sections of the paper like “Business” are only a long list of headlines, some of which have brief story summaries. The only illustrations on many of these pages are low resolution headshots of bloggers. The main news page has nearly no illustrations at all. Multimedia features are completely missing, a sign that Chronicle management treats the online paper as an after-thought. Entertainment sections are the only well-designed portions of online newspaper. Most Chron.com sections look like cheap blogs. The site runs a fair amount of local advertising, much of it not very well designed.
The main problem that we — as serious newsies — have with Chron.com is that news is so difficult to find amidst the tacky features, user party pics, and other fluff content. It’s not at all clear what the people in charge of Chron.com are trying to accomplish with their website (a localized version of MySpace?), but the news seems to be one of many competing priorities.
We must correct McIntyre on at least one bad assumption, however (bolded, above). The folks at 801 Texas Avenue do take the web seriously, in terms of resources and focus. Chron.com is no afterthought. Rather, it is apparently the Houston Chronicle management’s vision of a contemporary newspaper website.