Jakob NIelsen of the Nielsen Norman Group is known in the online world as the guru of usablity.Back in 2001 he wrote his first rpeort on the usablity of online media rooms and his latest insights on how journalists use the web is out today.
As 3 studies of journalists show, they use the Web as a major research tool, exhibit high search dominance, and are impatient with bloated sites that don’t serve their needs or list a PR contact.
Journalists work on tight deadlines, notes Nielsen. And he says that while this is not a novel insight, it certainly is not taken into account by webmasters who create corporate websites. It is this fact that has led to many of the guidelines for making an online media room usable for journalists.
“Most of the PR sections of sites we’ve studied fail to support journalists in their quest for the facts, information, and contacts they can use to write stories about companies and their products.”
That statement should be more than enough motivation to get PR people interested in, and actively involved with, the design and content of the PR section of the website – the media room.
Here are some comments from journalists who participated in the study.
After having a difficult time using a site, one journalist said:
“… I would be reluctant to go back to the site. If I had a choice to write about something else, then I would write about something else.”
Another journalist described what he’d do if he couldn’t find a press contact or the facts he needed for his story:
“Better not to write it than to get it wrong. I might avoid the subject altogether.”
- Many journalists work from home and do not have the latest technology updates. It’s wise to offer your press materials in two software versions behind the latest release
- Don’t put your material in PDFs
- Offer basic information cleansed of marketese or spin
- Include links to external sources, including press coverage
- Make the site easy to navigate and the information simple to find and use
- Write the releases so they can be scanned for data
- Give them facts they can use in their stories
- Include multi media
This sounds very like a Social Media Press Release format to me!
How Journalists Read a Press Release
Take a look at this “gazeplot” from Nielsen’s new eyetracking study that shows a journalist reading a press release on TNT’s website. Each blue dot represents one fixation of the user’s eyes. (Bigger dots indicate longer dwell times.)
Note how the journalist focused on the facts in the initial bulleted list and the second table. The journalist hardly read the concluding paragraphs and mostly ignored the first table, which was not as interesting.
Changes observed in this new study:
- Journlaists rely more on search engines than they did in the past. And with Universal search displaying news, blogs and videos it is imperative that PR people understand how to maximise their digital assets.
- Journalists are embracing multimedia. But there is a caveat: their main complaint is that multimedia content tends to be harder to use and to contain superficial information. Companies clearly need to work harder to turn “new media” into “useful media.”
“Ultimately, PR-related usability comes down to a simple question: Why spend a fortune on outbound PR (trying to pitch journalists) when you neglect simple steps to increase the effectiveness of inbound PR (satisfying journalists who visit your website)?”
Social Media Bootcamp and Advanced Social Media Practice: February in NYC, Chicago, DC and San Francisco