Good taste costs no more

Knight-Ridder Digital’s web sites are ugly, indistinguishable, slow, and confusing. And they make money. Ergo, they don’t need fixing.
That’s the baffling message of a story in Business 2.0. It’s interesting that this story comes out the same week a worldwide study that shows consumers associate clarity and ease of navigation with credibility and other research that shows that advertising clutter lowers response. KRD’s pages are cluttered with noisy house ads.
Business 2.0 misses some important points in their own facts.
First, KRD’s revenue numbers look unreliable: “At the Fort Worth paper, customers are offered a two-day newspaper/30-day online combo called the FlexAd for about $150 less than the newspaper ad alone. ” A lot of the revenue is apparently an allocation of print revenue.
Second, the model looks insupportable: “anyone placing a $230, 10-line Sunday classified ad in the San Jose paper gets a seven-day Web ad for $50 more.” KRD seems to be pricing their Web advertising relative to print and not to online competitors. How does this price compare to Craig’s List or eBay?
Third, whatever success KR Digital enjoys is apparently the result of reducing fixed costs, which is a key online strategy. But to quote Richard Gump, good taste costs no more. You can’t defend bad design on the basis of cost savings.
Business 2.0 fails to answer the most important question. How much better would KR Digital be performing if its content management system worked better, its sites were easier to navigate and less ugly, and local editors and publishers had some control?

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