C’mon, Kyoto, you can do better than this

7 12 2007

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All of the large Japanese newspapers have bureaus if not their headquarters in Tokyo. Some people forget that Tokyo was not always the center of activity in Japan. The city of Kyoto, which means “capital city,” was Japan’s capital from 794 until the late 19th century.

The Kyoto Shimbun News is a community newspaper that focuses on the cities of Kyoto and Shiga. The paper has a company mission of upholding “justice, freedom and truth.” The Kyoto Shimbun Web site looks like something your novice programmer designed, however, its simplicity and to-the-point features are appealing to foreigners.

The site is offered in both Japanese and English. The English version of the site is regularly updated with three “fluffy” main stories on the home page. While that’s not a lot of content, the way that the page is designed with images and article summaries make it okay visually and easy to read. The articles are extremely short. They are more like news briefs than articles. I think that they could afford to fit more of the articles on the home page. They could also invest into making slide shows which visitors would find helpful. I like the “Guide,” “Photos,” and “Festivals” navigation. These are topics that they don’t have to spend time maintaining. The Japanese version of the site is a little more meaty in order to better inform the paper’s main readership – one of the 1.5 million Kyoto inhabitants. Still I think it leaves a lot to be desired.

Just to be fair, let’s compare this site to that of an American community newspaper that serves a similar amount of people – Philadelphia.

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Let’s talk about my old stomping ground, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Web site. I think the Philadelphia site is very formulaic. There’s one main story photo and then there’s some article summaries. There’s a spotlight of some features articles with photos. They should put their online exclusives a lot further up. Why bother spending a lot of time on a gift guide or an interactive presidential campaign contributions map if you are going to stuff it on the bottom of the page where nobody is going to see it?

After writing a lot of these site reviews, I have found that the Japanese media outlets really need to spend more time on site development. It’s strange that they are so behind when it comes to online journalism especially since their audience seems to be really tech-savvy with many of them getting their news via mobile phones. What do you think?

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