The Washington Blade, while well developed as a news source, could utilize some changes to prepare for a better future.
While I do not know the specifics of the Washington Blade’s financial decisions, but may be advantageous to either focus more heavily on the site’s content (and decrease the number of physical newspapers) or place a cost on the physical newspaper. The site itself does not have a pay wall, and may not want to consider it until it gains a wider audience.
Editorial changes to the site could include a more interactive front page. Perhaps there could be short films, working slideshows, or even sound bites to work alongside the written articles.
The Blade has a large amount of colorful imagery that sometimes tell stories of their own, so creating the additional multimedia pieces would not be outside of the Blade’s realm of expertise. The first few featured articles on the front page are typically longer than the others, and may need to be broken up with multimedia additions. A major strong point of the publication is the use of photography in any atmosphere, whether it’s for a club, political speech or social gathering for an LGBT organization. Utilizing actual video will in a sense help the articles “come to life” and keep readers interested.
While the use of audio clips is not abundantly used in modern media, it would be far more attention grabbing when added to a slideshow. Another dimension of storytelling would certainly help the Blade really put their journalistic endeavors on display, and bring in more audience members who are interested in both seeing and hearing the story.
The user information on the demographics of viewers who visit the Washington Blade site entirely surprised me. The site has headlines that includes “Not a lady in sight” which reports on an all gay male cast in a ballet. Another article, “LGBT groups push back against threats to gay-inclusive immigration bill” does not quote a single woman.
However, according to alexa.com, the expected high male readership is not necessarily the case. Apparently, women are overrepresented on the site. This means that more women are looking at these stories than men, which is an interesting phenomenon I’d like to look into.
One guess I have is that more lifestyle-related content (such as the latest clubs or which hangout spot is the cheapest) that appeals to the men is on the front page, so a man visiting the page might go on just to get an update. Women, for some reason, may spend more time on the site navigating through different articles and images. This doesn’t explain why men don’t navigate throughout the page.
Another shocker was that people under the age of 44 are viewed as underrepresented, whereas the opposite is the case for people over 44. Perhaps, again, there are more older visitors who bother to search through the site’s articles.
According to quantcast.com, more men visit than women, which provides some interesting contrasting data. There’s little surprise that the majority of readers don’t have kids, considering some state laws that do not permit LGBT people to adopt children.
There is also a large demographic of African American readership, which I also find particular because there is very little subject matter that specifically targets the black community.
Overall, this is a realm of information that I’d like to look further into simply because it does not line up with my initial thoughts on it.
The general organization of the Washington Blade site is fairly well done with easy-to-find sections that would be found in the print version. All of the site’s articles are divided under local, national, political, health, entertainment, lifestyle, opinion and classified tabs strung along the top of the page, directly under its catchphrase “America’s leading gay news source.” Every page has this setup, with the navigation system available at the top of the page.
The physical appearance of the tabs is more informational than eye-catching. Words on each tab are white with a slate-covered background. Its font is the same as the news logo, which is placed in the upper left corner. The purpose is to get the reader from place to place without a problem. It may also be in the site’s best interest to keep the navigation bar and article titles as dull-colored as possible because the photographs found further down on the page are bursting with color. This recent week’s feature photo near the top of the page (which is interestingly placed on the upper left, rather than the upper right as one would see on The New York Times site) is particularly neutral-colored, so there’s certainly room to make the feature image very colorful. It may be overwhelming for an audience to look at brightly colored tabs and other navigation alongside neon-lit scenes from a nightclub or play.
The navigation is, however, very functional. Most tabs have narrowed down options in a dropdown box that appears when the mouse hovers over the given section. For instance, the entertainment tab offers the options to focus on theater, film, music, books, dining, bar guide, arts & culture calendar, outragedc and contest. This is extremely helpful for the reader who does not want to sift through articles about new upcoming movies to find out about the nearest LGBT-friendly restaurant.
Even when the tabs to the main sections are selected (for instance, if someone clicked entertainment instead of bar guide) the following page still divides most of the sections separately to ensure a more organized site experience.
The contact and about us pages are linked from the home page (at the very bottom, after much scrolling) but nevertheless give a comprehensive list of all the staff and provide a short history about the Blade.
9:18: President Obama welcomes home the last troops to serve in Iraq. “This generation of heroes” has made this generation “safer and more respected around the world”
9:19: “For the first time in 2 decades Osama Bin Laden is not a threat to this country.”
9:21 Obama maps out a highly educated, technologically advanced and economically sound future of the U.S.
9:22 “No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important” than the American dream beginning to crumble.
9:23-9:24 Obama recognizes the demographic of Americans who fell victim to the economic downturn and the banks that reaped the benefits.
9:25 Business have created more than 3 million jobs in the last 22 months. Last year they created the most jobs since 2005
9:26 Obama demands to hold Wall Street accountable for the economic crisis
9:27 “Tonight I want to speak about how we move forward.”
9:28 General Motors has now become the world’s #1 automaker. “Tonight, the American auto industry is back.”
9:30 Obama says to business leaders: “Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country.”
9:31 Obama: No american company should be able to avoid paying taxes for going overseas
9:32 Obama: Start rewarding companies that make jobs in the U.S.
9:32 On track to double our exports
While the Washington Blade is primarily a text-based news source, it does include a large visual base. A considerable amount of the front page contains photo galleries for stories that would typically be event coverage. To a degree, the photos tell a better story than a written article could. As a publication that has a focus on highly visual and activist-based subject matter, such as Miss Gay D.C. America and Youth Lights for Equality , it is more effective to show the story.
The Washington Blade does find ways to benefit itself through these visual narratives: readers have the option to purchase images in the gallery (although there isn’t much keeping an ordinary viewer from doing a simple copy/paste job). Much like a New York Times paywall, this offers the devoted reader base an opportunity to give back to their choice publication.
There is, too, the option to interact with other readers and the author through the comment section of each post, such as yesterday’s post involving Edie Windsor’s speech in New York. However, readers rarely utilize these section of the posts. This isn’t to imply the writers’ skills are related to the amount of commentary. In fact, readers comment slightly more often on the visual multimedia page .
The real interaction between readers and writers is on the Blade’s Facebook page, which boasts over 16,000 likes. The same interview which gained only three comments on the Blade’s website received over 31 likes on its Facebook .
The relationship between reader interaction and the actual writing pieces may have more to do with the actual readership (instead of the writers themselves), which is ideally young people in the LGBT community. There may be a difference between the readership of social media and the readership of news stories by young people, which causes the great difference in interaction through both media.
Considering that the Washington Blade’s website’s front page features an updated list of night life events and several photos of young advocates, it is safe to assume that the site is typically visited by young adults. The stories are therefore written professionally, but in a relatively easy-to-understand manner that cuts out political jargon. For instance, the Blade’s article today about the president signing the Violence Against Women Act honed in on how it would affect the American LGBT population. Rather than explaining the act’s effects in a few dense concluding paragraphs, the Blade uses bullet points to show exactly how VAWA will affect LGBT Americans.
The Blade finds other short and understandable ways to portray the news that is popular among the younger generation. The publication’s major stories are primarily only written and with the company of a photograph or two. However, it does utilize other multimedia methods to connect LGBT individuals worldwide. Cartoons, art and videos pertaining to LGBT people and their stories can be found under the “multimedia” tab. They are all not well-known news stories–in fact, few of them are. The videos here are not meant to tell news, but to share an experience. One homemade video shows a gay Israeli couple asking to help them have a child while another features a college fraternity asking for help with the payment of a fraternity member’s sex change.
The site also offers links to their Facebook and Twitter, alongside a list of links to other LGBT-friendly websites.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre and other gun-related tragedies, the discussion about gun control exploded among local lawmakers. Among them is Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose gun control bill was passed by Senate today.
The bill, which was passed in a 28-19 vote, could create of the strictest gun laws in the U.S. according to The Baltimore Sun. The bill calls for a limited amount of bullets, increased police authority to audit gun dealers, and the ever-so-controversial background checks which implicitly place people with mental illnesses at a vast disadvantage.
“You can get a gun quicker than you can get an apple or orange in my county,” Sen. Nathaniel McFadden said to The Baltimore Sun. With commentary like this, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to limit guns to 10 bullets, or to let police do regular checkups on their local gun dealers.
But what about the fingerprinting and background checks that may leave potential gun owners uneasy? People with mental illnesses and those who voluntarily allow themselves to be treated run the risk of not being able to purchase a firearm at all.
By and large, mental-health experts are not on the governor’s side with this issue, according to The Washington Post. It could carry the unexpected side effect of the gun enthusiast refusing to seek help simply to buy a gun—which is a fairly counterproductive move.
However, in a Post poll, 85 percent of Marylanders are in support of O’Malley and his efforts to tighten the laws on gun control.