Web Watch 6: Photos and other add ons

Front and center of virtually all print editions of student newspapers is a great big photo. Photos break up type, but they also attract readers. But take a look at your online edition. Any photos there?

Will Sullivan’s Journerdism (yep, spelled correctly) blog article Ripe, low-hanging fruit — How news sites can make dynamic photo galleries that rock is an interesting read. It also gives tips for optimizing photo presentation in web publications.

Don’t tell the print reporters (although they probably know due to the whole, “if you get a photo with your story it’s more likely to get on the front page” theory) but if you watch Web traffic, you can clearly see that visuals exponentially control traffic.

Unfortunately, most newspapers drag their feet on optimizing their photos for readers to enjoy quickly and easily.

The whole industry is weak with online photos. Sure, their front pages may have photos, but click on a story and you’ll see few photos illustrating the story.

A scan of California community college publications shows that most sites could do a lot more with photography online. I often talk about a lot of new media extras that we can do online, such as podcasts, blogs and video. But photos is something most print publications already include: Why aren’t more photos online? (I know, but will address it below.)

Most JACC schools include at least one photo on the front page, but most stories go unillustrated. And those who do include photos usually choose the same ones they print in the print edition (and most often the same lead photo). But your photographers probably are taking many more photos for every story than are being included in print. If you can’t fit them into the story, think about slide shows or photo galleries. You can even make money by posting quality prints on some sites like Flickr, where readers can purchase prints.

Selecting and preparing online photos takes more care. Because online photos often are displayed much smaller in print, they need tighter cropping. That long shot that looks good in print when run five columns wide really sucks when shrunk to web sizes. Different photos need to be selected. Oh, and the web handles color even when you cannot afford it in print, so simply shrinking your black and white print doesn’t look good either.

Three JACC papers that did a good job this week include Orange Coast, Santa Barbara and Cerritos.

Channels Channels talonmarks.com

  • Orange Coast uses a special HTML code on the front page that pops the smaller photo into a new window with a larger view. Additional photos appear with stories.
  • Santa Barbara’s lead photo is a copy of the print version’s front page, but other photos on the front show good color and cropping. And if you click through to stories you’ll be pleasantly surprised with more photos.
  • Cerritos’ front page design demands a variety of photos. But click through to stories and you’ll find slide shows and videos retelling the stories in different ways. See the Marine Band and Hotel Workers’ Protest stories.

Honorable mentions go to Long BeachModesto (Measure E and blood pressure stories), LA Valley (rich colors), Bakersfield (smoking photo), Pasadena (yucky looking thumbnails, but good tight cropping), and Ventura County (b/w football photo is exquisite, but displayed two levels in as thumbnail.) College of the Desert hasn’t updated since spring, but has an interesting slide show on the front page that shows info about a new building on campus.

Why don’t more schools post photos? When I talk with advisers about their web sites they almost universally say that their staffs are too busy to update the web site. That’s why the web has to be considered part of the whole process and not an add on. Involve the WHOLE staff in the online AS THEY WORK on the print edition (or before the print edition). Photographers should work prepressing photos for online along with the versions for the print edition. And if you use College Publisher, they should be responsible for uploading photos to the web site just as reporters should post their stories online to await editing. Advisers can lead the way by talking like full involvement is expected. Some I talk to fear giving their students access to upload stories and photos.

Bonus Tips for College Publisher users:

  • If your photographers are in the habit of pre-pressing color versions for your print edition, be sure to have them switch back to RGB (instead of CMYK) before saving. CMYK jpegs will display pure black.
  • If you use more than one photo with a story College Publisher defaults to stacking them along the right side of the story display (see Modesto’s Measure E story). You can control placement of photos within the story by inserting the following HTML tag at the proper location in the story: <cp_showmedia position=”1″ align=”right”&gt. Change the position number to correspond to the photo’s position and the alignment to “left” if you want it to show on the left side of the page.

Final note

San Mateo has joined the ranks on online publications getting a start this fall and I’ve missed the Chabot publication (sorry), which has been publishing. That brings to 35 the number of California community colleges publishing. Twenty-six are part of the College Publisher network.

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One response to “Web Watch 6: Photos and other add ons

  1. The same can be said for blog sites, which can attract more users by simply putting either screenshots or photos in every post, so that you never have “just text” at any point when scrolling. Site traffic increases exponentially. One easy way around this is to always put photos into the template of your blog page, interspliced with links and archives/ads.

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