The Hindu, one of India's oldest and better newspapers, has a new beta website (Hat tip - tipblog.in). This blog is not to review it but I need to use it as one of the examples for this post.
Now what is most important in newspapers? For my generation, probably the last generation in India to have read newspapers that fed news and intelligent analysis/investigation, the frontpage is the most important part. Next, for the serious readers, the editorial and columnists sections.
If that is agreed upon, then the homepage and edits should be the most important on a website. Check any of the major Indian news or newspaper websites - You need to scroll to find the opinion page. There may be an exception....but just that exception.
Next, the most irritating part of these websites is the barrage of advertisements that hits you when you open the homepages. The advertisements actually interfere between you and the news. I am all for the ads but when they are placed at one side. Let the reader click if he/she is interested...just like you have the ad in newspapers where a reader chooses to read it. It is like those advertisements that make you lose interest in a cricket match because the ads gobble up the first and last balls being bowled in an over.
Also, many news sites have completely irrelevant pictures / videos like those of some fashion show etc. Who cares? Keep them restricted to the entertainment section.
Here is where news aggregation like Google News works wonderfully well. It extracts headlines for the reader and allows the reader the freedom to choose.
Coming back to the new Hindu website....it is elegant. Simplicity of a website is important for news readers and this website gives that. Hopefully this new site will not succumb to the temptation of allowing advertisements to hijack reading experience. In fact I liked their old site too...it has the old internet charm and is effective news providing site.
If we consider worldwide sites, of the sites I have visited, my favourites are NewYork Times and BBC News. NY Times is fast and shows columns on the top right side. BBC News has a very nice front page.
As a reader, my request to the newspapers and news sites is to create sites that create stickiness amongst readers. They should swear by your site's content. Most people are found searching for that close button or trying to find the news they want to. The longer a person takes to find content of his/her choice, the lesser is the chance that you will be his/her choice the next time he/she wants to find something.