Posted : 2013-04-08 18:12
Updated : 2013-04-08 18:12

Naver's new format hits newspapers

Unlike the design of its old news box on its start page, which randomly published the headlines of its news partners, Naver's News Stand allows users to customize the media outlets appearing in their news feed.
/ Korea Times

By Kim Tong-hyung

In defending the biggest overhaul of its news section since it went online in 1999, Naver ( speechified about purging the Internet of flash and trash headlines.

Mission accomplished so far. A week into its existence, News Stand has been successfully converting headlines screaming ''Shocking,'' ''Appalling'' and ''Oh My God'' into waves of photos of scantily-clad women.

Unlike the design of its old news box on its start page, which randomly published the headlines of its 52 news sources that were linked to their own websites, News Stand allows the users to customize the media outlets appearing in their news feed.

Text headlines have been replaced with mini boxes edited by each newspaper, broadcaster and wire service, designed like traditional front pages of newspapers, with big headlines and photos spread beneath the banners.

What hasn't changed is that journalist organizations, especially the financially-squeezed dead-tree media, continue to degenerate into whores for clicks. Photos dictate the new format over text and the mini boxes have been doors to an abundance of raccoon makeup, short skirts and cleavage.

If Naver, the country's most popular website by a large margin, seriously aimed for News Stand to help bring class and integrity to Korean journalism, it appears to have miscalculated massively.

Or perhaps, the clean-up talk was the Internet giant's own misleading headline concealing its true intentions to gag the noisy rabble from bigger media companies.

NHN, the company that operates Naver, believes that more than 25 million Korean computer users have Naver fixed as the start page of their Web browsers. The website controls about 70 percent of Korea's search market, and has been a key gateway where news organizations got most of their online traffic, with readers trickling onto their homepages from the linked headlines.

News organizations have always been uneasy about their overreliance on Naver and constantly accused it of free-riding on their content. Large newspapers like the Chosun Ilbo, which by and large have been failing to extend their offline dominance online, were complaining their articles were just a few of the hundreds of options randomly published by Naver, where brand value was neutralized.

In introducing News Stand, Naver was throwing its hard-to-please media partners a bone: the larger newspapers and broadcasters could safely expect Naver readers to pick them over their smaller competitors.

But be careful what you wish for. Since the introduction of News Stand, overall page views at news sites have dropped dramatically.

While market research firms like Korean Click and have yet to announce the exact data, an official from the Korea Journalists' Association said top newspapers were reporting their online traffic had essentially halved. The damage to smaller outlets was dramatically worse, with some companies saying their page views declined by as much as 70 percent.

The point of News Stand, at least officially, was to allow Internet users the freedom to pick what they considered real news from a sea of intellectual rubbish. In its first week, it did more to repel online readers from news pages altogether.

It's estimated that only 5 percent of Naver's log-in customers are using the customization options on News Stand. During times when more people are getting their news on computers and smartphones rather than print, the format of News Stand may prove too complicated in an environment where quick reads and instant gratification are everything.

It could be argued that Korean news organization dug their own holes by chasing the low-hanging fruit provided by page views instead of finding ways to upgrade the quality of their content and monetizing it.

This resulted in an overreliance on news aggregators like Naver, which doubles as a savior and a competitive threat to their business. While people are increasingly using social media services such as Twitter and Facebook as sources of information, newspapers have been unable to exploit these services to reduce their dependence on the aggregators.

관련 한글 기사

네이버 뉴스스탠드의 일주일

1999년 사이트 개설이래 가장 고강도의 뉴스섹션 개편을 진행하면서 네이버는 언론사들의 천박한 헤드라인 ``낚시질’’에 대한 정화를 얘기했다.

단지 그 목적이었다면 일단 성공했다고 봐야 하나. 뉴스스탠드가 도입 된지 단 일주일만에 ``충격,’’ ``경악,’’ ``헉’’을 외치던 언론사 헤드라인들이 노출이 심한 여자들의 사진으로 쫙 바뀌었기 때문이다.

52개 언론사의 헤드라인을 메인페이지의 뉴스박스에 랜덤하게 배치하던 예전 디자인과는 달리 뉴스스탠드는 독자들로 하여금 보고 싶은 언론사의 뉴스만 골라서 볼 수 있게 한다. 또 텍스트헤드라인 대신 각 언론사가 편집한 미니박스가 나타난다. 이 미니박스들은 제호밑에 큰 사진과 헤드라인이 배치된, 전통적인 신문사 1면의 디자인 구조를 따른다.

네이버는 바뀌었지만 점차 클릭수의 창부로 변해가는 언론사들의 현실은 바뀌지 않았다. 뉴스스탠드에선 텍스트헤드라인보단 사진이 눈에 띌 수밖에 없다. 각 언론사들의 미니박스들은 스모키 화장과 짧은 치마, 가슴골이 깊게 파인 옷을 입은 여자들의 사진으로 도배되어 있다.

정말로 네이버가 한국언론의 신뢰성과 품격을 뉴스스탠드를 통해 다시 가져올 수 있다고 생각한 것이었다면 뭔가 큰 오산을 한 것이 아닌가 싶다. 이게 아니라면 언론정화에 대한 모든 얘기는 네이버 스스로가 쓴 왜곡된 헤드라인이라고 할 수 있겠다.

네이버가 뉴스스탠드로 전환한 데에는 메이저 언론사들의 입김이 크게 작용했다. 오프라인의 영향력을 온라인으로 연장하는데 고전해왔던 조선일보 같은 신문에게는 브랜드가치에 대한 고려 없이 수백 가지의 콘텐츠가 모이는 네이버 같은 웹사이트가 불편할 수밖에 없었다.

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