When The Charlotte Observer couldn’t get its news into young readers hands, instead of upping its print game, it listicized down its content.
In his interview with Nieman Lab, Ted Williams, the Observer’s digital director, said the site is meant to attract younger readers. Williams said the millennial audience in Charlotte has a “light interest” in local news (meaning “they care a little bit about it”).
In a blog post from earlier this month, my classmate Amber Younger said she hopes readers will stay on a Charlotte Five story “long enough to get them to the Charlotte Observer article” and believes the site will spark interest in the Charlotte Observer.
I somewhat agree with Amber. For sure, Charlotte Five’s strength lies in the fact that it directs new readers to Observer stories they might not have ever seen on their own. For instance, today’s story about High Point University’s history of bringing interesting speakers to campus was a fun read, but one I would have never hit up on the main Observer website (I usually only go for Lake Norman and Panthers news).
However, contrary to what Amber said, I don’t think Charlotte Five does a good job of getting traffic back to the Observer or establishing any real loyalty with the Observer because it doesn’t offer many links back to the Observer’s website. I also think it treats twenty-something readers like children who can’t digest more than small bits of bulleted news.
For example, today’s story about trends in violent crime in Mecklenburg County was actually useless to me. After giving me a bulleted list of whether rates of specific types of violent crime had risen or not, Charlotte Five offered this reductive take on the issues:
“CMPD credits the better use of technology, more vigilant citizens and a focus on repeat offenders for the decline in violent crime. We’re a bit worried about the general uptick in crimes, especially in thefts, but commend CMPD for the notable improvements fighting some of the most egregious crimes.”
I left the story (without ever actually visiting www.charlotteobserver.com, by the way) without any bearing on whether a 7 percent increase in aggravated assaults is something I should worry about or not.
Ultimately, I think the idea is there for Charlotte Five. As a twenty-something news consumer, I appreciate having five stories picked out for me and I like the idea of getting a quick synopsis of the news with links that might take me to the original story. I don’t think the news needs to be dumbed down, just packaged in a way that’s easy for me to find and read.