Site review: suntimes.com's 'online partners'

Written by Adrian Holovaty on October 8, 2002

Suntimes.com, Web site of the Chicago Sun-Times, has links to "Visit our online partners:" at the bottom of almost every page sitewide. Here are the links, worded as they appear on the site:

What do these sites have in common? They're all properties of Hollinger International, a large media chain that owns the Sun-Times. It seems as if some executive at Hollinger decided to require suntimes.com to link to other papers in the chain, without considering whether those links would be of any value.

And indeed, many of these links are utterly useless. The Jerusalem Post? The UK's Daily Telegraph? There's nothing here to explain why a reader of the Chicago Sun-Times would ever want to click those.

I can see how the link to Suburban Chicago Newspapers is useful -- not only because that site's content is relevant to Sun-Times readers, but also because it includes the "Suburban Chicago" in the link text; that tells me what I should expect to see upon clicking the link.

The link to "Post-Tribune," on the other hand, means little to me. If it weren't grouped with the Jerusalem Post, maybe I'd guess (correctly) that it's another Chicago-area newspaper. But putting it next to the Post throws it all out of whack; it makes me skeptical of all those links.

I'd suggest they remove these links, because they're unnecessary, confusing and seemingly random. But if they insist on keeping them, here are two suggestions:

  • Clarify the phrase "Visit our online partners." Something like "Other Hollinger newspapers" would give users a better idea of what those links are. And maybe link the word "Hollinger" to the media chain's corporate site; "Hollinger" alone is meaningless to people who don't care about media ownership.
  • Clarify the link text. For example, instead of "Post-Tribune," say something like "Northwest Indiana news -- Post-Tribune." It's impractical to link to a news site without identifying which part of the world it covers.

Comments

Posted by Rex on October 9, 2002, at 1:07 a.m.:

You got me thinking... I tried to think of other examples of this, but all I could think of is Village Voice Media, who always links to Village Voice, City Pages, LA Weekly, and others at the bottom of their sites, usually with no labels. The average alt-press viewer is probably a little more "in the know" of what they're getting into, so I might be stretching the comparison.

Posted by Nathan on October 9, 2002, at 3:56 a.m.:

To continue my rant about Knight Ridder that Adrian mentioned Monday, why would anyone ever click the "Click here to visit other RealCities sites" link at the top of all Knight Ridder sites?

If people are going online to read their local newspaper, why would they care about other newspapers 2000 miles away that just happen to be in the same chain? Why is this irrelevant link the first link on the page? And perhaps if the link was blue or underlined, it would be obvious it was a link and wouldn't require the circa 1995 Web words "click here to...".

Posted by Carl on October 9, 2002, at 10:53 a.m.:

It's really a case of bad salesmanship.

If a person is interested enough in the news to check out their paper, then maybe they are interested in coverage elsewhere.

If I were them I might have a link called "Different Perspectives - check out partner newspapers" or something like that. Then, instead of just a list, give a reason for each link. "Understand the Middle East - read the Jerusalem Post" or the like.

Posted by some ebert on October 10, 2002, at 10:08 p.m.:

Big media owns everything. It owns Roger Ebert. If he can't stop insane links,

nobody can. Big media needs traffic to drive up various advertising costs. they

don't care about users. it's all about the ads. 100%.

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