Topic pages: The new (and improved) Wikipedia?

22 Feb

The topics page is almost like an encyclopedia for newspapers. The best part is, unlike Wikipedia, you can be guaranteed that these topics include information from verifiable sources. Quite simply, it’s a smart way to archive stories. However, I do not agree with Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review, who says that topic pages should not be updated frequently and that they should be “evergreen.” Although I do think some parts of a topic page should be “permanent,” I think it should be updated frequently. Many topics are going to have new information every once in a while, so why not update its page and provide readers with new facts?

It would be a lot more convenient if readers could look up a topic they are interested in, i.e. Whitney Houston or President Barack Obama, and find all the stories they need in one place. It’s amazing how people don’t have to flip to a certain page in the newspaper anymore to find a section they’re interested in.

Paul Grabowicz of the Knight Digital Media Center provides interesting examples  of topic pages. Unsurprisingly, many news sites have developed these. The great thing about topic pages is that they bring back the more in-depth side of news. Since we usually use Twitter updates for our news, it’s nice to have more detailed information once in a while. Topic pages will hopefully bring people back from, as Maurreen Skowan of Poynter calls it, the “news slump” they are experiencing. This may be because much of the younger generation “doesn’t have time” to read, and prefer short bits of news. These pages can also satisfy the older generation’s thirst for knowledge. They know better than any of us “youngins” what storytelling in news used to be like, when there weren’t any computers, let alone the Internet.

However, you may not read a town-specific newspaper. Fortunately, papers like USA Today have “places and geography” topic pages that will group articles together by a specific town, such as West Palm Beach. USA Today’s topic pages consist of more general categories, and then under these titles are the three most popular topics within that topic. This makes topic browsing much easier. For budding newspapers or long-standing ones that haven’t really thought about making topic pages for their websites, Daylife has its own guidelines for starting a topic page. With this kit, you can even start a sample page to see how it looks before it goes live on the Internet.

Although the Content Strategies Blog states that making a topic page could be risky, since people may not visit it, I disagree. I think everyone has their own crazy range of interests, and someone is bound to look at a certain topic page. However, I agree that increasing SEO traffic is one of the main benefits of a topic page. SEO-friendly headlines can link readers to a certain topic page, which will therefore increase traffic for said topic page.

Topic pages are just another piece of the puzzle that is journalism of the future. If your newspaper doesn’t have one, get one!


Delicious link:

A journalist could find out more about a subject by looking at his or her Delicious stacks. It could also be used to find different websites on different topics.

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