Pimp the good stuff!

Back in my projo.com days, Managing Editor for New Media Tom Heslin coined a phrase for on-site promotion that became our mantra in the last year of working together.

"Pimp that sh*t!"

We quickly shortened it to PTS, to make it a bit more professional in mixed company, and said it to each other with a wink and a nod during almost every meeting in which we were discussing what of our new efforts should get home-page promotion.

I was reminded of PTS as I was conversing with Yoni Greenbaum via IM today. One conversation was about Year in Review features I was encountering, both on Ottaway sites and elsewhere. In particular, I was touting an effort by our SouthCoastToday crew.

Straight from Google Talk:

Yoni: I don't see the year in review package on their homepage...
Sean: Under their special reports menu? (It was in the lead position yesterday afternoon)
Yoni: nah, all I see if their men and women of the year package.
Sean: Oy. I'll dig the link out of my history....
Yoni: found it through their search
A little later, I was checking out a Google Maps mashup done by TheLedger.com in Florida, showing where to find holiday light displays. Dutifully impressed by the effort, I decided to check how they had integrated it into their site. Another exercise in frustration ensued.

Again, straight from Google Talk:
Sean: OK, that Ledger holiday lights mashup? Am I missing something, or is not linked from anywhere on their main site?
Yoni: nope
Sean: By searching Google, I found this: http://whatsnewonline.theledger.com/default.asp?item=717201
I feel a blog post coming on....

What the Google Talk thread doesn't tell you is that I hunted -- I mean, really hunted -- through TheLedger's local news, community, multimedia, interactives and other pages to find how the map was presented or linked. I couldn't even surface via their internal site search. I had to go outside to Google, and come back in, and I still am unclear on exactly how they integrated it on their site, or even promoted it, when the feature was launched.

No user is going to go through the lengths I did to find your cool stuff. It's a disservice to your staff not to showcase their hard work. It's a disservice to the reader to have that kind of utility or interesting content, and hide it under a bushel.

PTS, baby. PTS!


Kathy Schwartz said...

As someone responsible for PTS and working on the frontlines, I must gently remind you that there is only so many pixels on a screen and it's difficult to properly promote each and every new feature when we're constantly pumping the homepage with news and have products we need to promote at the same time.

We're talking about and will probably execute some kind of What's New blog for Marta to use as a promo tool for stuff inside the site. But, alas, however much space we give Marta on the homepage there's bound to be something "new" that's pushed to page 2 of the blog -- that's just how it works.

spolay said...

Of course, Kathy. I agree that the inverse of what I espoused results in too much clutter on the home page. I hear Jay Small's voice in my head -- stemming from at least a couple of redesigns we were in the trenches for during our Belo days -- regarding the signal-to-noise ratio being an important counterweight to the desire for promoting every initiative on the home page.

Fred responded to my post by e-mail earlier today, and I'll share that he rightfully reminded me that his staff cycles items through the centerpiece (what we at Ottaway call the "big barker"), particularly in the afternoon. That's a practice I love, as many have heard me advocate.

But grant me this: When you have a seasonal feature that provides utility or entertainment value to the audience, isn't it worth sacrificing pixels -- an editor's pick or two, an AP headline or three, or a special section promo -- to make sure that feature can be found?

And if not on the home page, via the site navigation? And certainly the site map? Maybe a section front or three? Certainly the special reports page?

My point this morning was that the features I was hunting on our sites and others could not be found without taking extraordinary steps -- ones that a user less hyperinterested than me would not have taken. If we don't provide multiple avenues for the audience to find the projects our staff works so hard to produce, why produce them?