WCCO-TV and WCCO Radio’s shotgun web marriage

Until Wednesday, WCCO had one of the more radically split web identities in local media. On the one hand, TV’s wcco.com, the second-most-trafficked local news site in town. On the other, wccoradio.com, which made the “I Kiss You!!!!!!!!!!!” site look sophisticated.

It all defaults now to minnesota.cbslocal.com, a.k.a. CBS Minnesota, in what may be the oddest branding choice since MPRNewsQ. It’s CEO- if not user-friendly, as if KARE11 and the St. Cloud Times merged their sites into Gannett Minnesota. It’s a corporate template. That’s what corporations do.

The corporate overlords will see you now
The corporate overlords will see you now

But I don’t hate the new site, not at all. It’s a more generic, less newsy, feature-friendly portal than the old TV site, but it killed the radio site. On balance, that’s a public service.

(Update: But the new media player makes you sit through a 30-second web ad to radio’s already enormous ad load? Ridiculous.)

There are a few things I really like about the combined site. First, CBS has finally okayed embeddable video — a boon for a media critic (and other linkers). Also, the site is much cleaner and readable than the previous TV template, which you can still see here. Radio shows, regular TV news features (“Good Question,” “Reality Check”) and blogs are easy to find. The font size is bigger, which the radio demographic should appreciate once the grandson cleans those viruses off the computer.

The news stories often contain TV and radio links, which is nice for news junkies. I’m not quite sure why stories with TV footage feature clip art or screen grabs at the top; just put the TV player there. (On the whole, the site has bigger graphics, but with so much clip art in the home page rotator box, the cheesy factor has also gone up.)

And they didn’t kill The Wire! (However, it appears wounded at the moment.)

You can now comment on any story — always a mixed blessing; can’t wait for the stories involving gays or Muslims — and the hoi polloi also get a heaping helping of “Best Ofs” and other evergreen features that seem unavoidable these days.

On the whole, the new site seems to reflect the variety-show-with-news that commercial TV and radio, frankly, are. I’m betting it won’t reduce traffic, and may even help — as long as too many people don’t think they’re on the wrong site when they type “wcco” and “CBS Minnesota” pops up.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 11/12/2010 - 09:38 pm.

    I agree that the radio site was atrocious, but I’m not sure that this is a great trade-off (although I expect WCCO didn’t have much of a choice)

    The whole move seems designed to make it easier to sell national ads across the station group. Which is fine, except that it’s a recognition that the CBS stations haven’t unlocked the answer to selling digital ads at a local level.

    It’s also a recognition that most of the big media players are moving away from in-house propietary content management systems and templates to something that is more off the shelf. I’m a bit surprised that this appears to be a wordpress installation, since most media sites have tended to pick Drupal or Joomla. Both of which are more robust and tend to look a little less like a site that was designed in 2003.

    I also agree that I don’t understand why the images are so generic and stock photo-ish. If you’re going to go for a cleaner look, the images need to pop and they certainly don’t right now.

    One other quibble is that I generally like the ad blocks to have some text that says “Ad.” It’s less of an issue when a Chex Mix ad pops up, but it’s a bit more confusing to visitors when they’re confronted with those news story-like Pulse360 ads.

    I agree that it’s nice to have everything laid out on the page (blogs, special features, etc). But my recollection from user studies done on other news sites is that once you get past about 30 or so links on a page, the ability of visitors to easily find what they’re looking for drops quite a bit.

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