Better than Flashy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why is the Drudge Report, a no-frills web page of photos and headlines linked to news stories, one of the biggest news traffic generators on the web? In large part, it's because Matt Drudge hasn't let things like fads or flashy technology distract him from his purpose:

"Matt Drudge is an American original," Mr. Breitbart said. "He does not rig search optimization, he does not care about the next big Web innovation, he just has the best nose for news there is. He gives people everything, every single thing, they want to know in a single stop."

A big part of the reason he is such an effective aggregator for both audiences and news sites is that he actually acts like one. Behemoth aggregators like Yahoo News and The Huffington Post have become more like fun houses that are easy to get into and tough to get out of. Most of the time, the summary of an article is all people want, and surfers don't bother to click on the link. But on The Drudge Report, there is just a delicious but bare-bones headline, there for the clicking. It's the opposite of sticky, which means his links actually kick up significant traffic for other sites.[minor format edits, emphasis added]
I appreciate the no-frills design of the Drudge Report. It respects why I am there, by making it easy for me to find the news I need, allowing me to decide whether to learn more, and not attempting to do my thinking for me. It's a news site -- not an advertisement, a game, or a wannabe social network.

There is a calm confidence in the stark black-and-white page that says, "Here is today's news." There is no neurotic pleading for attention or repeat business. There are no pop-ups or intrusive multimedia nonsense. Links lead away from its page and directly to the story, rather than popping open a new window for fear I might spend a second or two away from the site, and then forget about it forever. Drudge knows I'll be back, because he knows what I'm looking for and he knows he helps me find it better than anyone else out there. The web page is an example of form following function, and, now that I think of it, it is a welcome relief from the ridiculous excesses of current web page design. Drudge knows what he wants to do, which means he knows his audience and the best way to reach it. A definite purpose informs how he runs his site.

There's a lesson in that for anyone who cares to learn it. Thank you, Mr. Drudge!

-- CAV

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