College High Five of the Week: The Independent Florida Alligator

This is a new weekly feature debuting today at the JI. Every week I’ll take a look at a student newspaper Web site, feature on that site, story or other content that I like.

The inaugural College High Five of the Week goes to The Independent Florida Alligator for its Best Photos of the Week in News feature. Here is why I like this feature: it’s an easy way to get more life out of content, while also serving users better. Does it get any better then that?

Basically, Alligator staffers select the best staff photos of the week, put them in a slide show and boom they have new content. First, people love photos. Whenever you can get mileage out of photos, do it.

Second, this feature is a showcase for a newspaper’s best work. By showcasing its best photos, newspapers can use them as a launching pad to get people to consume more content. Like that photo? Maybe you’ll like the story that goes with it.

Finally, this is an easy, Web-only feature that people enjoy. People enjoy looking at photos, especially good photos. I guarantee you that even your regular users will probably miss a few of your best photos each week.

It happens. Users will appreciate that you are highlighting your best work for them.

Now, there are a few ways to improve this feature. First, it would be much cooler if instead of putting the photos into Soundslides, the Alligator put each photo into a database. I’m pretty sure the Alligator does it the way they do because of CMS limitations.

This would allow the Alligator to track the page views for each photo. Also, each photo could have a rating from 1-5 stars. This would allow users to see what their peers thought was cool.

Let’s take this concept a step further. What if every photo on the Alligator’s site was rateable and tracked page views? Then the Web site could automatically create a most popular photo gallery every week by either page views or by rating. Those galleries could then be compared to what the Alligator staff thought were the best photos.

I think this would be a huge way of getting more life out of existing content. I don’t believe any newspaper does the concept I have discussed here, mostly due to CMS limitations. It would take a very Web-first CMS to make this happen (most newspaper CMSes are very print-content centric). But just because you don’t have a great CMS (and who does?) doesn’t mean you can’t make cool features.

That’s what the Alligator has done here. Instead of worrying about what they can’t do, they have figured out what they can.

If you would like to nominate a collegiate newspaper Web site, story or feature send an e-mail to connect (at) patthorntonfiles (dot) com.