Posted by Tom Foremski - October 10, 2011
Over the past couple of months I've been working on a news site, called Silicon Valley Watch, with my long time colleague Doug Millison, a veteran journalist and editor. It's a hand-crafted and hand-curated news site inspired by the Drudge Report.
Our goal is to figure out what is the most news information we can provide in a minimalist format.
We've used the Drudge Report as a starting point for some very good reasons. The prime reason being that the Drudge Report is incredibly successful at what it does -- it drives massive volumes of traffic to some of the largest news sites in the world.
Earlier this year a study by the Pew Center's Project For Excellence in Journalism found that it was more influential than the hundreds of millions of people sharing links on Facebook and Twitter.
While Facebook never drove more than 8% of traffic to any one site, for instance, Drudgereport.com provided more than 30% of traffic to mailonline.co.uk (the British newspaper site the Daily Mail), 19% of the traffic to the NYPost.com, 15% to Washingtonpost.com and 11% to Boston.com and FoxNews.com.
... the Drudge Report's influence cuts across both traditional organizations such as ABC News to more tabloid style outlets such as the New York Post. What's more, Drudge Report drove more links than Facebook or Twitter on all the sites to which it drove traffic.
That's incredibly impressive, especially since it looks so ugly -- it looks as it was published by a 14 year-old in 1995. You could say it is anti-design.
However, a closer look at what Drudge does reveals a lot more about news and design than looking at some of the big news sites.
Here are some key points to consider:
- Drudge Report consists of links that take you to other news stories, in that way it is similar to other aggregation sites like Techmeme or Google News. But there are big differences. The others copy the headline and first paragraph of the source site -- Drudge takes nothing, it creates its own headlines.
- Drudge Report is hand-curated, no algorithms are used to place the links.
- There are no tags or categories.
- There is no information on where a news link will take you. You trust the editors that you will read an interesting article.
-The design is shocking, underlined courier fonts; graphics and ads are scattered around; and there are large amounts of static links to news sources.
Doug and I decided we wanted to investigate what makes Drudge work so well. And the more we've studied it, the more we appreciate its many qualities.
First of all the design of Drudge is fascinating. If you spend some time with it, the three column format with its jumble of links and graphics starts to make other news sites look incredibly square and rectangular. They all start to look like each other -- boxy and dreary.
Compared to those big, boxy news sites Drudge looks retro but also fresh, its design is out-of-the-box, it's not constrained. And without categories, there is no temptation to fill up a section with weak links just because there's nothing else that day.
Shortly after we started publishing Silicon Valley Watch, Reuters Thomson launched a similar project, using Drudge as an inspiration. This was very encouraging to our small venture because it showed we working along the right lines in our exploration of what makes Drudge Report so successful.
What would a news website look like if it didn't need to promote its own content, and just linked to the best stories and posts, regardless of source? We believe that the best way to get people to come back is to send them away: click on a headline, go straight to another site, and see for yourself.
However, Counterparties looks nothing like the Drudge Report -- it is highly designed, with labels, tags, discussion.
Our goal is to start with a Drudge-like format, a minimum amount of design, no tags, categories, source info -- then see where we can take it.
But our prime goal is to provide Silicon Valley with a news site that captures the best news stories of the day, including stories that might not be seen on the usual daily news sites; and include local non-tech news such as last week's manhunt of a mass-murderer, an accident on highway 101, local issues, etc. And on the run up to the weekend include upcoming cultural events. Whatever matters to people's lives in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley Watch is designed to give readers a quick look at what they need to know that day. Readers from outside the area will get to see what Silicon Valley is doing, thinking about, and what's going on in their local communities.
It's Silicon Valley in content and context -- the way curation should be.
Like Drudge, our headlines are our own, we don't take anything from the hard working reporters and editors of other news sites. Our goal is to drive traffic to the best news stories out there.
So please make Silicon Valley Watch part of your daily routine. We have a morning edition and we will add a late afternoon edition. We'll be adding features and gradually changing the design over time.
And we look forward to your suggestions and feedback about Silicon Valley Watch- the best news stories about the most innovative region in the world.