The Washington Post is another
well-know print paper, and they make a reasonable foray into the
electronic world of InterNews. While both the N.Y. and L.A. Times seem
to offer their printed news form as the first and foremost reason for
site access, the Post takes some pains to provide some extra benefits
for on-line users, and as they say, there is more information than
The Standard News
The post takes an interesting tack on delivering the news: they have a
version of the news that is meant only for Internet delivery. If you
want what is in the paper, a little button at the side of each section,
international, national, business, etc.,
gives you a laundry list of all the articles in the printed edition.
The button is shown below:
If you are not addicted to that, you can jump to the top three or four
stories quite readily, or you can search for what you're looking for, or
simply read one of the items featured in the day's digital section. You
can get a better idea of what this looks like
Each section optionally has a list of news that is available only
on-line, which is also demonstrated in the link above. This really lets
the reader know: there is a point to being on-line.
The rest of the overview focuses on the wealth of electronic services
provided by the paper, since discussion of the details of the business
section can be quite dry.
Interact is a section of "Talk & Technology." Presumably, this
is a good thing. They have links to discussion areas, random web links,
and a bunch of other stuff, outlined below. In reality, Interact is
really an e-zine in disguise.
The Web Exploration Society lets you take a tour of fifteen sites,
which have been laid out nicely by the staffers, and sub-divided into
five categories: for beginners, web resources, fun, special interests,
and miscellaneous. This provides a good way to start surfing for those
who haven't surfed much, but probably isn't comprehensive enough to be
useful for the experienced web user.
Cybersurfing provides a weekly column on "Perturbations, pleasures
and predicaments on the information superhighway." not bad, but not
as much as the New York Times delivers.
Meet The Staff allows you to find out who the hell is behind this
on-line effort, and the result is amazing. Roughly 30 to 40 people
are full-time staffers for the site .
There's a number of other areas in this section (too much for me to
cover here), but the titles give you an inkling: Homework Maniac, a
resource for kids doing their homework, Computer Tutor, Technology News,
the latest A.P. and Post News on Technology, and so on.
Interplay with the Printed Paper
The Post has a feature that I expect to become more common, and it's
called: For More Information. In the daily printed paper, certain
articles are marked to indicate that there is more information on-line
about the article. Presumably, the interested (and connected) reader can
check out the web-site and find out what the big deal is all
about. Usually, the web-site will provide one or two links to sites with
more information. Four or five would be better, but this is definitely a
step in the right direction.
As you can see, a synergy between print and electronic forms is
possible. The key insight is that the electronic medium is perfect for
this kind of background information.
The Post adds value to being on-line yet again with the addition of
digital specialists , people who will answer you e-mail about
questions in a specific area. Two current assistants to the readers are
the TaxGuy and the Digital Trainer.
The former can provide the user with help on various tax issues, all the
way up to the filing date. The latter can answer all the questions you
might have about staying in shape and exercising. Is the paper
liable for bad advice that the experts might give?
Washington world is essentially the on-line metro section of the
paper. There is local news for every region that the Post considers
within the metro region, from Alexandria to Southern Maryland. More than
just stories about local on-goings, W-World provides a huge variety of
on-line services and resource guides for local residents.
One example of this is College Post: this service is aimed at
the large group of college-going groupies around the D.C. area,
including a ton of schools like Georgetown, and some others that I can't
seem to recall. Some services include a site index (for those new to the
site), a book exchange (where you can post what books you are selling),
and beyond the mall (a list of attractions in the area).
Perhaps the most interesting service is known as
date-a-base (pun intended), an on-line dating service for those
crazy college kids.
One final example of what this enhanced metro section provides is called
School Matters, and it is aimed at young kids in school. Not only
is there a resource guide to the Web aimed at helping studying students,
but also another one of those pesky digital specialists, this time an
on-line research specialist, to answer questions about teachers,
schools, and how to help your child succeed in the classroom (well, that
was a quote from the page, if you were wondering, which I'm sure you
were). There are also some services here that children won't be quite as
thrilled by: an on-line way for parents to figure out when report
cards are due. No more lying about that!
Finally, let me briefly pontificate on a feature of the InterNews
service allows the user to access an electronic T.V. Guide. This feature
is even customizable, allowing you to construct your own personal guide
to boob-tube viewing. Click on "Seinfeld" and find out what
each episode in the upcoming months is about. Now isn't this what you
had in mind when you think of the capabilities of the Internet?
The presentation, though at times a little bit color-rich bordering on
gaudy, took a different approach than the conservative looks of the
N.Y. Times and the plain ugly looks of the L.A. Times. The paper
actually looks like a web page, as surprising as that may
Quality of Articles
The quality of the articles varied. While the ones from the standard
paper were of reasonable quality, I felt that some of the other specials
were not quite up to the same standard. Of course, I may just be
comparing apples and oranges, since it is difficult if not impossible to
judge the writing quality of a section entitled "date-a-base."
The format of the standard news articles was a good one, perhaps a
subtle step above even the N.Y. Times. The articles occupied the right
four-fifths of the screen, a discreet advertisement in the upper-left,
the control panel across the top and bottom (see the next section), and
a column down the left-hand side. This column is the interesting part of
the layout, offering a set of related links along with a small paragraph
that describes each link. I found this feature to be quite
helpful in deciding whether to jump to a site or not.
As mentioned above, the control panel graces both the top and bottom of
the page, and is shown in the picture below. The panel is succinct and
to the point, allowing the user to get anywhere in two hops via the site
The ability to navigate throughout the entire site is somewhat hampered
by a certain lack of uniformity. This lack can be directly
attributed to the wealth of disjunct information available on the site,
in the form of a variety of mini-electronic magazines, so perhaps it is
forgiven. Given the variety of the site, I never had trouble finding
my way around.
There is one small feature that keeps you in context .
A small message warns when you are potentially leaving the site:
Editor's Note: Some of these links will
take you out of the WashingtonPost.com web site. To return, use the Back
button on your browser. This ensures that you know when you
are about to hit a link that leaves the web site, which did not
happen on any other site I reviewed. A small, but useful, warning.
The first thing that help tells you is simple: contact them if you can't
find the answer. Good attitude. Good for you, too, since the rest of the
help page is somewhat brief. There is information on the site
(organization, availability, and a little company history), some help
with getting on the Internet (doesn't make too much sense as an on-line
guide if you ask me), ways to reach the staff, and the usual "Web
Basics" aimed at users new to the concept of the Web.
I found that the search capabilities are better than most other
newspapers. They exceed other newspaper searchers with the ability to
search by headline, author, or keyword, with the usual data
range limitations applicable. You can also look for AP articles, Post
articles, or items especially from the on-line service.
Soon, they will have archives back to 1986. The wonder of computers!
Timeliness Of Content
Here we have a daily newspaper plus a number of regular features which
others might call e-zines. In terms of how often these things are
updated, about once a day and maybe once a week/month, respectively.
Some A.P. news is up to the minute, though.
Use of Multimedia
The raw news makes little use of pictures, and good use of
hypertext. There is essentially no audio or video to be found.
The specials make more heavy use of pictures, but still no audio or
The usual on-line forums exist; this one is called
" Washington World Talk "
Nothing more than a set of newsgroups with a nifty name.
Finally, we note that the Post has less affiliation with other sites,
but this may be because it subsumed another site some time in the past
(about three years ago).
The Post provides a reasonable
take on InterNews; the medium is the message, and that is well
understood here. There is a lot of value added to being on-line, and
this might the site with the most besides news. The true
convergence of on-line newspapers and magazines can be found here.
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