The Houston Chronicle's Web site, Chron.com, fared poorly in an analysis of the online versions of the nation's largest newspapers.
We realize such rankings -- in this case grades of A through F were dispensed by Douglas McIntrye of Wall Street 24/7 -- don't amount to a hill o' beans in this crazy, mixed-up world.
Still, in this era of financially challenged newspapers, the thinking is that the online products of the nation's Fourth Estate take on new significance regarding survival in the future.
Chron.com got a D+ grade, but a handful of others fared as bad or worse -- the Dallas Morning News received a D-, the Boston Globe received a D, the Cleveland Plain Dealer a D+, the Philadelphia Inquirer a D- and the Newark Star Ledger an F.
Here's what was said about Chron.com:
This site is a bit of a mess and is as good an example of what not to do with a newspaper site as any in this survey. The navigation across the homepage includes twenty five tabs some of which are labeled poorly enough so that it is hard for the reader to understand what they are. The front page really does not have a headline per se. The stories at the top of the page are features which don’t appear to be chosen to compel the reader to go further into the website. Some of the stories near the top of the page are from the Associated Press, an indication that the editors don’t feel that they have enough compelling content from their own features. The stories do have the basic social network and reader interaction tools including the ability to comment on stories and share them on Twitter or Facebook. The large sections of the paper like “Business” are only a long list of headlines, some of which have brief story summaries. The only illustrations on many of these pages are low resolution headshots of bloggers. The main news page has nearly no illustrations at all. Multimedia features are completely missing, a sign that Chronicle management treats the online paper as an after-thought. Entertainment sections are the only well-designed portions of online newspaper. Most Chron.com sections look like cheap blogs. The site runs a fair amount of local advertising, much of it not very well designed. The Houston Chronicle is owned by Hearst.