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The disappearance of front page news – how do your readers find your intranet news stories?

News stories on my intranet ‘fall off‘ the front page after two days and ‘disappear’; at least as far as my readers are concerned. Here one day, gone the next.

news-ball“Did you see that article about our pay offer? No? Oh well, you missed it.”

With all my reading, all my research, all my networking, I have failed to discover or develop a better system than the ‘news archive‘.

News stories are presented on the front page of my intranet, but physically reside within a year, month and week structure. Think ‘folders in a folder’. Basic web design; basic information architecture: Intranet Home/News/2009/August/10 August

The News Archive holds stories from last week and way back to years before. I think it’s easy to get to because the breadcrumb trail is easy to use and lets people ‘go back in time’. I also provide a direct link to the News Archive section from the footer of every news story.

Yet, I’m wrong; the News Archive is not easy to find. People tell me that in all the years the intranet has been running, they’ve never seen the Archive.

Besides, even for those intrepid adventurers who dare to delve into the past, how are they expected to know that I published the ‘How to Buy Shares‘ news alert in the second week of November 2008?

Basically, authors / project managers come to me (Intranet Editor) and say “we need a front page story to tell people about the new pension fund”. Then we all make great efforts to produce a decent page with supporting information and guidance. It’s great. It’s a master work of good communications, actionable direction with clear design.

Then I say “how will people know about this pension thing next week? Shouldn’t we update and refresh the permanent Pension pages within the Benefits and Pension section?

Everything grinds to a halt and I’m told that I can update the Pension section if I want to. Hang on; that’s not right. The permanent Pension section is owned by the Pension team (yes, it’s probably me who updates the pages for them, but only because I manage the entire intranet), so don’t they want to present the very best information to our people?

(I’m only using Pensions as an example – please don’t think I’m ragging on our Pensions department, who are very nice people I can tell you!)

Basically, we are putting great effort into the front page story, but we fail to put as much energy and effort into the reference materials on our intranet. The very pages that people can find are out of date, uncared for and lacklustre. The problem isn’t in the effort made to make front page stories brilliant, it’s in the damn archive structure. Sure, a news article about one’s company appearing on the television only needs to be seen once, not referred to again, but so much of our comms need to be referenced again and again, at least for a time longer than the two-day period I give them on our front page.

The problem with blog-like date-based archives on the intranet

  • Front page articles are often important, have real impact on business and people, yet they seem to ‘disappear’ in the black hole of a temporal based news ‘archive’.
  • Impossible to find past articles quickly unless you can guess the month and week they were first published.

Possible solutions

Maybe front page articles should be duplicated, copied, into the relevant permanent reference section. But no! Duplication is awful, confuses the search engine and one day, one of the pages will be more up-to-date than the other, and which should people believe? One page, one truth, one point of reference.

Maybe front page articles shouldn’t be placed in in the Intranet Home/News/2009/August/10 August
folder structure unless the news really is temporal and transient – with no lasting ramifications (e.g. ‘Cake Sale in the Main Dining Hall’).

Maybe news articles should be published within a sensible place within the extant intranet (just like any page) and simply be brought on to the front page in a timely manner. No copying, no re-publishing, simply promoted and linked to from the front page at the right time. This way, people who read the page (having ‘opened’ it from your front page) will be ‘in’ the intranet properly, and not simply within the news section.

I really need to think about this. I’ve read so many best practice guides to designing and running intranets, and yet news and news archiving seems to be ignored, or the blog-like ‘news archive’ seems to be the assumed and traditional approach. Down with assumptions! Down with tradition! Down with approaches that simply don’t work!

Please tell me, how might I explain to my readers that some stories are in the archive (“Return Your Pension Forms by Friday”) while many stories are actually housed within the relevant drop-down menu? (“Revised Maternity Policy”).

This is a change I can implement very quickly, but I really should know how other people manage their news archives. I really would value your input. My intranet has a great many news stories per week, and we’re business and company focussed. Please leave your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

[Wedge]

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Photo credit: stitch

About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

4 thoughts on “The disappearance of front page news – how do your readers find your intranet news stories?

  • Hi Wedge,

    When i had an intranet to manage i added a ‘more news’ to the bottom of the home page (at the end of the news feed). This opened a new page which showed all news ever published (yes it was a long page). This was listed as newest at the top and oldest at the bottom and everyone knew it was there as it was signposted from the home page.

    Hope that helps!
    Jenni

  • A complete index of news is an interesting idea. To be honest, I don’t consider it an aesthetic solution, nor one that is particularly user friendly, but as it clearly shows all news and would allow a clever person to search (using ‘Ctrl + F’) I can see the immediate benefits.

    I’m going to reflect, and consider reducing my stupid weekly archive to a monthly one (and link to each month’s archive from every story). This would provide people with a long list of all stories in the month, but not for the year, which I’m nervous about (so long!).

    However, from an Information Architecture point of view, I still feel that there must be a better solution out there. I do think that ‘permanent’ pages (within the usual, well known navigation) might well be the first stop for people (rather than the news archive / index) so I do want to think about a real and lasting architecture strategy, but I very much appreciate this tactical idea, and I reckon it will help me immediately!

  • Hey Wedge,

    I agree with Jenni that a “more articles” link helps drive users to the archive pages. Also, keep in mind that if your search works as intended, your users may not have to navigate to find the news they are looking for. Although they might not have navigated to the archive directly, they have probably read articles stored in the archive that they have found via search.

    The other thing to consider is a topical list of news categories or a tag cloud. That might help folks find the contetn as well. The trick is to give your users many ways to fifind the same content.

    Hope this helps!

    –Sean
    @seanrnicholson

  • Hi Wedge

    We tend to use a short intro for the homepage news story and then link to the bulk of the content on a dedicated site which will include a ‘fast facts’. So we’d have a short story to flag up ‘new pension fund’ then a link to pensions site and key facts about the new fund.

    Similar to Jenni we have a link to ‘previous news’ which covers 2010 and from this page a further link to archived news from 2008 and back – rather cumbersome! I like Sean’s idea of a tag cloud but our current platform doesn’t support this.

    It’s a tricky one…hope you find a good solution!

    @jonnop

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