News homepages and the paradox of choice

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 7 July 2011

At the UPA conference Susan Weinschenk talked about the paradox of choice, and that how as humans we often say that we want a wide array of choice, but actually find it bewildering when presented with it.

I thought it might be worthwhile doing a quick survey of the level of choice that news homepages present to users. This table shows the number of headlines displayed to readers on the front pages of some major international news sites:

News siteNo. of homepage stories
Mail Online (UK edition)259
La Repubblica171
LA Times158
El Pais139
New York Times136
CNN134
Fox News125
Die Welt123
Wall Street Journal109
Washington Post106
Huffington Post (US edition)98
Telegraph91
Le Monde90
Daily Beast82
Financial Times80
USA Today79
Guardian73
BBC (International Edition)64
The Times47
Sunday Times46
Sky News41

There aren’t any particularly firm design conclusions you can draw from this. Often the larger story counts are boosted by designs having large decks at the foot of the page, that insist on displaying 3 headlines from every conceivable section of the site.

Mail Online is experiencing soaraway success at the moment, but you’d have to analyse the flow of traffic through their site to decide if bombarding the user with so much information on the front was a contribution to their success. Notably they repeat stories several times in different areas of the page, which may mean you end up clicking out of attrition. The Sunday Times and Times sit near the bottom of the table, as their most recent incarnations have gone very much for an elegant newspaper grid look, rather than the long list of stories that is so common elsewhere.

What did I count to get the figures?

I counted links to stories, articles, blog posts, galleries, video, audio content and features. I didn’t count links that were purely navigational, e.g. “Formula 1 Race Centre” or “More world news”. I didn’t actively click anything like tabs or carousels to reveal more stories, but if a carousel automatically rotated through content - as The Sunday Times did - I counted all of that content. I did not include content labelled “Sponsored editorial”. I did not attempt to de-duplicate links. I viewed the sites either between 8pm and 9:30pm on Sunday 26th June, or between 8am and 9:30am on Thursday 30th June on an iPad. The choice of sites was arbitrary, and as they occurred to me, rather than based on any list of popularity.

3 Comments

Any relationship between the number and whether they have a separate news channel page (EG the guardian doesn't - your home page and news page are the same).

Indeed there are a multitude of choices. It will be interesting to see how the monetization of news websites (i.e. NY Times) will affect the number of choices. Will they have to be more selective in their choice of headlines/articles?

Martin

A comparison to the Drudge Report might be interesting.

Matt

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