Are you putting the user first?

If you’re editing a news site, are you publishing what users want or what you have?

Assuming you have what users want, are you organizing it the way your users would want it organized? Or is it organized based on some legacy notion like print sections? Or worse, is it displayed based on the org chart?

Startup news sites are fighting an uphill battle against established media brands. But one advantage they have is the ability to put the user first in their content and layout decisions, without the burden of prior procedures.

Om Malik recently posted some quotes from Matt Thompson that illustrate this point:

“When you ask, ‘How do you support news organizations on the web?’ it looks completely daunting,” Thompson said. “But many successful journalistic enterprises on the web started out the other way. You had a few individuals creating enough value to be supported, and then building on that value.”

That has been the case for many a tech blog: starting out with a single author or two and adding in staff. There are signs the model is catching on, as sites that report on citywide communities, politicians and courts are starting to take root as well.

From Politico to Techcrunch to West Seattle Blog, the new journalism focuses on what the users want first. Then the journalists arrange themselves and their actions and their energy in whatever way will best support that focus. 

It sounds simple, but if you’ve worked for a corporate or legacy news organization (large, medium or small), it’s not. But it’ a worthy goal, one that should be first and foremost as you plan your MBOs and project goals for 2009.

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