Best + Worst Publication Websites

Best WorstCar Pub Insider is scouring for the top 10 publication websites. I want an even split between Best and Worst, but I need your help assembling the worthy candidates.

Selection Criteria

The goal is to to highlight sites that meet consumers needs while advancing publishers’ online interests. On the flip side, sites that limit the consumer experience for whatever reason (typically due to print-centric policies) get the dunce cap.

The list is confined to publication websites (those associated with print publications) and not pure web plays. Finally, selection criteria is based on business metrics as follows:

  1. The Site Matters. I’ll start with narrowing the field to publications with scale and banding. Super and shameful websites abound, but I’m only interested in those from publishers with market impact. Consumer sites such as Car & Driver make the short list, Mike’s Petroliana Monthly does not.
  2. Lack of Open Search. The web is all about search. Consumers are mission driven and they want to search broadly or specifically. The cleanest site with fabulous targeting and lousy search flunks.
  3. Lack of Email Contact in Ad Listings. Another kiss-of-death dysfunction when publishers regurgitate offline content. Pure e-commerce sites don’t have this problem. I want a documented exchange between myself and the other party. But no, seller Joe Sixpack has only a phone. Without voice mail.
  4. Litany of Site Instructions. Consumers lack enough patience and only more so online. “Click here if you’re a subscriber, click here if you’re not” get in the way of converting browsers into buyers. If explanations for basic actions are necessary, it’s time to revamp site navigation.
  5. Mixed Messaging. I need to purchase a mid-nineties Jeep for the new teen driver in our family. I don’t want a calendar, I don’t want to subscribe to something, I don’t want to enter a contest. I don’t even want to register. I might do all those things some other time, but right now I’m here to do a specific task (see #4 above). Check out McMaster-Carr and see the gold standard of web efficiency: crisp, simple, massively impressive depth of content in a clear organized layout.
  6. Lack of Core Value. As with #5, visitors are at your site to perform a task. A business was presumably built around a core competency that delivered on a specific consumer need. A publication whose prime focus is advertising for cars and parts should make that Number One. Everything else is window dressing.
  7. Advertising. Monetizing site traffic with paid advertising is a good thing. Or is it? Sites heavy with editorial content should present advertising in a contextual manner or based on layout considerations as would be the case in print. Rich content can be a distraction unless essential to audience engagement.
  8. Unfriendly Design. According to Business Online there’s a common misconception that a web page is read like a print publication, left to right. In fact, web visitors start from the center, then move left to right. Check out this eye tracker.
  9. The Site Sucks. Last but not least, some sites just plain suck. You know it within seconds of page load, and it doesn’t matter if she has a great personality. Ditto for beauty queens that grab you by the eyeballs and won’t let go because you’re so smitten she can sell you anything.

Honorable Mention

Early on I stated a primary interest in sites with scale and significance. However, a number of boutique and niche publications have made great strides in meeting consumer needs online. In fact, small shops tend to take more risks effectively paving the way for others to follow. So I’m open to highlighting the Best among niche pubs as we can all benefit from their sheer survival instincts.

Vote Early and Often

Well, nine seems like a good number so let’s call it a wrap. It’s important to consider that not every selected site will score high (or low) in all nine categories so let’s just say the winners need to hit on at least five out of nine selection criterion.

Your comments and suggestions to help pick the Best + Worst Publication Websites will be gratefully received. Vote early and often!

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There Are 2 Responses So Far. »

  1. That’s easy Eric, they ALL suck.

  2. Trader, Hemmings, Old Cars Weekly, major suck fest. I can’t think of a good one.

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