Navigating newspapers: Part 2 - Mapping primary navigation

 by Martin Belam, 30 January 2009

Yesterday I started a series of posts looking at the primary and secondary navigation links across 9 UK newspaper website. Between them they had come up with just over 450 different ways of labeling newspaper content when published online. The figures and 'word cloud' that I published yesterday concentrated very much on the differences between the navigation schemes. Today I want to look a lot more at some of the similarities between them.

Navigating newspapers

In print, British newspapers all follow pretty much the same navigation scheme - news at the front, sport at the back, TV guide in the middle. If you are reading from front to back, then UK news comes before international coverage, 'softer' content aimed at women is towards the middle, and city and finance coverage is two-thirds of the way through before the classifieds section. Well, something like that anyway.

On the web, however, news organisations had a blank canvas to invent new ways to navigate the newspaper, but they've pretty much all stuck to the same blueprint. It is a fairly obvious move, meaning that users online can navigate their way around content based on their familiarity with the type of sections they get in the printed editions.

Popular newspaper primary navigation categories

To show how the different primary navigation schemes on 9 UK newspapers map together I've classified each link into a generic description of the topic. This table shows the most popular ones grouped together, illustrating seven of the most popular topics, and how the individual papers label them.

News Sport Comment Fun Lifestyle Travel Video
Daily Express News /
Sport Our Comment Fun /
Travel Video
Daily Mail News Sport Coffee Break Femail
Daily Mirror News Sport Opinion Fun &
Life &
Daily Star News Sport Comment Fun Living
The Guardian News Sport Comment Life &
The Independent News Sport Opinion Life &
The Sun News Sport Fun &
Travel Video
The Telegraph News Sport Comment Puzzles Lifestyle Travel Video
The Times News Sport Comment Life &
Travel Video

'Showbiz' and 'Culture'

Interesting things happen around the topics of TV, entertainment, arts, culture, showbiz and celebrity. Here newspapers provide plenty of coverage, but the exact categorisation is hard to pin down. For the Express 'TV Guide' and 'Entertainment' are two separate entities, whilst the Mirror has 'TV & Entertainment'. 'Arts and Entertainment' in The Independent and The Times map to 'Culture' in The Guardian - but is that the same as the Mail's 'TV & Showbiz'? And where does 'Celebrity' fit as a category?

This table maps together these similarly themed links across the 9 newspapers.

Entertainment TV Celebrity
Daily Express Entertainment TV Guide
Daily Mail TV & Showbiz
Daily Mirror TV & Entertainment Celebs
Daily Star TV Celebrity
The Guardian Culture
The Independent Arts & Entertainment
The Sun Showbiz TV
The Telegraph Culture
The Times Arts & Ents

Money, finance and business

There is a another confusing lack of consistency around the labeling of content about business and personal finance. 5 newspapers use 'Money' as a top level navigation link, including the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Independent. Those three use this label to cover personal finance and business stories. The Guardian and The Times however, have both 'Money' and 'Business' as primary categories, splitting the topic in two. The Telegraph opts for the alternative catch-all phrase 'Finance'. The Mirror, Star and Sun do not have a primary navigation label covering financial stories.

Money Business
Daily Express Money
Daily Mail Money
Daily Mirror
Daily Star
The Guardian Money Business
The Independent Money
The Sun
The Telegraph Finance
The Times Money Business

Other common navigational labels

The following table shows some of the other common categories of label - those which appear in the primary navigation of at least three papers, and which I haven't mentioned yet.

Home Motoring Personalisation Site Map Jobs
Daily Express Home | Front Page Motoring MyEXPRESS Careers
Daily Mail Home Motoring
Daily Mirror Home
Daily Star MyStar
The Guardian A-Z Jobs
The Independent
The Sun Home Motors My Sun Site Map
The Telegraph Home My Telegraph A To Z Jobs
The Times Driving

Notable absentees

It seemed to me that there was one notable absentee from the majority of newspaper website navigation schemes - science and technology. The Guardian and The Independent are both fighting for the eco-aware audience with primary navigation on the subject of the 'Environment'. Amongst the rest of the paper's only the Daily Mail has "Science & Tech" as a heading - and, judging by the secondary links, even that seems like more of an attempt to sell gadgets than report and inform.

Daily Mail science menu


In the next part of this series, I'll be looking at some of the navigation areas around sport. I'm sure we can all guess that 'Football' is the most common link, but without peeking at the sites, can you guess which are the only newspapers to fly the flag for 'Sailing' and 'Netball' as secondary navigation links?

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