Navigating newspapers: Part 1 - We are what we label

 by Martin Belam, 29 January 2009

The names, language and labels that we use to describe things unwittingly tells people a lot about our attitudes and beliefs. The order in which we describe things helps communicate the relative importance and interest we place in them. So I thought it would be interesting to look across the UK newspaper website landscape and look at the way the papers sign-post their content to the user. In short, how do they label their navigation?

Navigating newspapers

I looked at 9 national newspapers, and noted down every first and second level link in their primary web navigation. By top level I mean, for example, the strip that reads ''News | Sport | Comment | Culture etc etc' across the top of The Guardian site.

Guardian navigation

By second level, I mean links nested under those major sections, for example the links to 'Forces' and 'Royals' in the left-hand navigation when you visit the 'News' section of The Sun's site.

The Sun navigation

The nine papers I looked at were the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sun, The Telegraph and The Times. [1]

Daily Express   Daily Mail   Daily Mirror   Daily Star   The Guardian   The Independent   The Sun   The Telegraph   The Times

I was interested to see to what extent the labels might be homogenous amongst the newspapers. I wanted to see if they all referred to certain topics in the same way, and if they used similar broad schemes of navigation.

In total I looked at 834 navigation labels from the 9 different national UK newspapers.

Amongst these there were 457 different terms or phrases used. 387 of the labels were unique in only being used once, in one place, by one newspaper. This table gives an overview of the number of first and second level navigational links on each newspaper's website.

  Newspaper Top level links Second level links Total
Daily Express Daily Express 28 33 61
Daily Mail Daily Mail 12 54 66
Daily Mirror Daily Mirror 8 78 86
Daily Star Daily Star 10 73 83
The Guardian The Guardian 13 89 102
The Independent The Independent 11 89 100
The Sun The Sun 27 123 150
The Telegraph The Telegraph 14 77 91
The Times The Times 12 79 91

Most popular labels

The following table illustrates the 25-or-so labels most used across the newspapers. I aggregated multiple appearances of the same label on the same site, which explains firstly why 'Columnists' appears more than 9 times, and why 'Star Videos' also features. The Daily Star has appended this navigation element to each of the secondary menus across their site, making seven appearances in total.

 Star Videos7
 Rugby League6
 Rugby Union6
 Fantasy Football5

Here are those 834 labels rendered as a Wordle cloud - UK Newspaper Navigation

Navigation Wordle


In the next part of this series, I'll be looking more closely at how the top level navigation labels of the UK's newspapers map together.

[1] I did not include the Financial Times in this study as I felt the navigation on the site was likely to contain a much higher proportion of specialist terminology than you would expect from a mainstream newspaper. [Return to article]

1 Comment

Interesting article, will you cover UGC in one of your articles? I did some XML CMS work with Metro (European version) newspapers a few years ago and I know they spent sometime on this subject to make navigation easier for their readers/visitors. Will await your next article. - Mike

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