Kill Your News Section and Keep it Personal

March 24, 2010

As a bit of an old-fashioned scribbler, it almost pains me to write this post. But recent newsworthy events here at Digett and the ongoing effort to improve our content strategy and publishing have led me to the inescapable conclusion that for most businesses, the News Section is boring and harms organizational goals. It's time to kill it.

For the wide-eyed, I mean stop adding content to it and remove it from navigation. Don't remove it from the site; you don't want a rash of missing pages causing site visitors to up sticks and vanish. Just be done with it, put it in a dark corner, and let it gather dust. But before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify a few things:

Don't discontinue your PR activities

That would be silly. Just stop posting your press releases verbatim to a generic News Section, as there's a good chance nobody's reading them. Press releases are written in AP style and positioned at the media (or they should be, at least), which means they're likely not suitable as web copy. Yes, I know all about web-oriented or SEO releases, but that's more of a search game and doesn't reflect well on content considerations, in my view.

Write your press releases, by all means. Pitch local and national media on coverage for your event/product/super-awesome service. Just stop posting soporific releases about your 0.73% third-quarter revenue gain to your site that are meant for the local business journal.

Post news content on your blog

And no, I'm not contradicting myself. If it's newsworthy, you should publish the content, but rewrite it and reposition it for your blog. We did this recently when we announced our hiring of Alex Garcia as Senior Web Developer. Sure, I wrote up a traditional release and sent it to local media, but I changed the copy and made it more personal for publication on our site. This served our purposes in several ways:

  • The information was published.
  • We didn't have to split content between our blog and a News Section.
  • The content now carries the tone and style inherent to Digett.
  • I got to call Alex a snazzy dresser—try getting that in your local paper.

Know your limitations

Not every organization is ready for this kind of switch; if you're a very serious company doing very serious business, this may not be for you. There's an argument to be made for humanizing any business, but that's a post for later. If a News Section serves your organization's content strategy and overall goals, so be it.

Likewise, not every company announcement belongs on a blog; despite what so many digital marketers love to think, crisis communications isn't akin to a fireside chat. You don't want to find yourself accused of trivializing a serious situation, so do what you can to plan for the when, where, and how of disseminating bad news.

Disagree with me, by all means

The view from the cheap seats is surprisingly good, so tell me if I'm off base. We talk fancifully about authenticity, but that can be defined in more than one way. What works best for your organization?