Improving Boston.com: Suggestion #2 – Enable Customization


Boston.com and other newspaper sites should consider Google as a model, specifically iGoogle. iGoogle is a personalized, Web-based desktop that is customized for each user — complete with tabs (or folders). Users can load widgets and RSS feeds, as well, as pick your own themes and color schemes to create a completely personalized page.

boston3This is exactly what Boston.com should do. Customization is a difficult step for newspapers. It would enable readers to self-select content from Boston.com — and, in the view of editors, ignore other content. They don’t like that. Editors still believe they should determine what is “news” and what is important for readers.

But it’s the future and Boston.com should adopt a mentality of giving readers a choice. Giving them the power of customization will make them more loyal readers and users of Boston.com. But it also takes Boston.com away from simply being a news site. They need to consider themselves a content site, not necessarily a news site.

So allow me, as the reader, to customize the way I want to read news from Boston.com. Here’s how it would work. Each section of the newspaper should have its own widget and RSS feed. This would enable me to build a Boston.com homepage by dragging and dropping the feeds and widgets offered onto my page. Boston.com should also offer widgets like calendar, weather, stock ticker, sports scores, email, etc. So I might choose international news, political news, sports, and my two favorite Globe bloggers. I could arrange the widgets in anyway I wanted on a page I could customize with a theme and my own colors.

Someone else might choose arts & entertainment, recipes, op-eds and two other bloggers. Each subscriber gets their own page — and, of course, Boston.com would continue with the main public news pages as well.

This customization will make the site more valuable – make my ability to find the news that’s valuable to me easy to find. If Boston.com also offers email and other hosting services (web pages, etc.) then they become a start page that I would use every day.

Next up: how to encourage browsing.

Part 1 of the Improving Boston.com series

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