Yesterday morning, Aaron Kronis
, Wpromote’s SEO Evangelist, sent me a fascinating article about JCPenney’s rise and fall
in the Google organic search results. I really suggest reading it if you have any interest in the dangers of black hat practices in search engine optimization. What struck me as most interesting, though, wasn’t the article itself but the very limited amount of space that the NY Times
dedicated to actual news. Check out the image above and refer to the key below to classify the delegation of space on the page:
Red = Ads
Orange = Internal linking
Blue = Social network linking
Purple = Absurdly giant image
Green = Actual news article
Using this image as a guide, it would seem that the NY Times
dedicated less than 9% of the real estate on the page above the fold to the actual article that I was trying to read. This estimate is fairly generous, as my monitor is pretty darn big. According to Google’s handy Browser Size tool
, less than 10% of users would even be able to see the first line of text in the article without scrolling down.
I have no way of knowing how many people were as put off as I was by this–maybe that number is very small–but I can’t imagine that presenting information in this confusing package is good
for the user experience. I’ve been tired of all the junk on content sites for long enough that I’ve downloaded Readability
, which presents that same article like this
, and does so for free. I highly recommend that anyone interested in getting their news in a more legible, less busy package invest the zero dollars it costs to download Readability right away.
I have nothing against ads or optimizing a site as much to impress Google as the actual user. In fact, my livelihood depends on both. I do object, though, when design focuses solely on these two issues and ignores the user experience altogether. The most valuable asset that the NY Times has is the content generated by its reporters. To dedicate so much real estate to ancillary assets seems counterintuitive to me. Without knowing what the analytics account for the NY Times looks like, though, I can only speculate at whether this strategy is hurting or paying off. I just know that for my experience, I’m going to continue to actively remove all excess content through the use of applications like Readability. If more and more users agree with me, it could lower the page views per visit, decrease the interaction with ads and ultimately harm the NY Times in their ability to brand their content.
After all, everything looks the same on Readability. This writeup which I envisioned being a editorial on the JC Penney story ended up being an endorsement for a third party reading application. The more people who are turned off by the way the NY Times presents its content, the more difficult it will be for the NY Times to leverage that content and stay competitive in the increasingly digital world of reporting the news.