it's funny, I only realized once I had done all of these, that my analysis is heavily influenced by me using a good adblocker, so if I comment about lack of ads when there were some, that is probably why.
MEL Magazine: TEENAGE HORMONES TURN FERAL IN ‘GINGER SNAPS’
Mel Magazine is a particularly funky publication, it features a lot of subject matter many would consider fringe or taboo, something epitomized by them having an entire tab in their menu bar devoted to NSFW content. As far as a layout goes, exampled by Chingy Nea’s piece, “Teenage Hormones Turn Feral in ‘Ginger Snaps’”, the site gives each article a banner-length image as a sort of thumbnail, in this case a composite collage of three scenes from the film. Below that, the headline and byline are displayed, followed by a personal plug from the author, for her horror movie series. This section is followed by a trailer for the movie in question, and then the article finally begins. Now, to the right of all of this, there is a numbered list (1 through 3) of articles one could jump off to, titled such gripping names as “Fear of the Impossible GigaChad” and “Why Did We Grow Up Thinking a Piercing in the Right Ear Was Gay?” And at the very bottom, the author’s site profile is linked, as well as her bio; “Chingy Nea is a writer, comedian and critically acclaimed ex-girlfriend based out of L.A. and Oakland.”
The writing style itself is conducive to the site’s aesthetic, personable and irreverent at points, and its formatting is inoffensive- it doesn’t do anything to distract from the words written, nor is it so bland that you can’t finish reading. Lastly, at the very bottom, at the Recommended Reading tab, the article titled, “Tickle Me Kaczynski: How the Inventor of the Ultimate Elmo Toy Became a Unabomber Suspect” is linked, and I just think that’s neat.
Insider: Intelligence agents are investigating potential national security risks caused by Trump keeping documents at Mar-a-Lago, Department of Justice tells judge
So, Insider is a deeply inoffensive site to look at, but also it’s so inoffensive that it borders on being boring to look at? Like, it is black text on a white background, with hints of blue and red dispersed throughout, there are MS Word documents with more pizazz than Insider.
The article I examined for this was, “Intelligence agents are investigating potential national security risks caused by Trump keeping documents at Mar-a-Lago, Department of Justice tells judge”. The headline is at the very top, followed the author’s name, and the date and time the piece was published. Under that is typically a picture that is relevant to the article, in this case, it’s an image of Trump giving an address at an event, with a small blurb giving context for the info directly under. From there, Insider gives you 3 bullet points of info you should take from the article (if reading a 167-word article was just too much effort). The article then goes on to reiterate those 3 bullets but in greater detail, before finishing with a “This story is developing. Please check back for updates”, which to me implies that they’ll update it in real time as the story evolves, but I’ve got no evidence for that, as well as linking an article related to the story.
I get that the articles are generally not very long, so if they formatted the text to take up more of the screen, you may actually not have to scroll at all, but I think it’s very annoying that, not only does the site have these massive blank white spaces on either side of the article, but they’re also not evenly sized blank spaces, the right one is like twice the size of the left, very unsatisfying to look at. Other than that though, the site is effective at communicating what it needs, without losing your attention at all.
I like how OnMilwaukee formats their articles, it’s as uncomplicated as Insider was, but it actually has color in it so not nearly as boring! The article I looked at for this one was, “Where to find $3 movie tickets on National Cinema Day this weekend”. Thumbnail image at the top against a cyan background, in this case, it’s a still of Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick (Tom Cruise and movies that promote American imperialism; name a more iconic duo). Directly below that, the headline and byline, still on that cyan background. Below that, the author and publishing date/time are aligned to the right, with OnMilwaukee social links on the opposite side of the page, now against a white background. One thing I really enjoy about this site is how big the font size is, very difficult to misread or get lost. This article in particular does a great job in plugging all of the participating theaters, it’s bullet pointed and has nothing to its right or left, so it’s well highlighted. At the bottom, the article’s tags are listed, so readers can search through related articles, as well as another, bigger, plug for the author, now including a small writer’s bio and a link to his twitter!
Overall, I like how OnMilwaukee presents its articles. It’s very simple, no ads taking up too much space (though that may have just been my AdBlocker, come to think of it…), the colors keep you from getting tired of reading in monochrome, and it’s incredibly local-specific, it’s designed by and for those living in the city of Milwaukee, and you can tell.
Shepherd Express: Congress and the White House Tackle the Problem of Marijuana Records
Shepherd Express immediately struck me as a “Normal News Site”; i.e., they make money via ad placements more so than through subscriptions, web traffic, or paper sales. Notably, I think the physical copies of the Shepherd are free, so that’s probably not a great source of revenue. The “Normal News Site” vibe comes from the presentation. The article I looked at was “Congress and the White House Tackle the Problem of Marijuana Records”, and as your eyes move from left to right across the page, the first thing you see, to the right of the headline, author name, date, and thumbnail image, is an ad for store that boasts “all-natural Hemp products”, Hemp being a fiber that is derived from the cannabis plant, it’s pretty neat. (Actually, a lot of early hate for cannabis was led by a guy who was big in the textiles industry, and stood to lose a lot if hemp became the predominant source of fibers. Very interesting, how problems in America constantly come back to capitalist gain…)
Anyways, as you read the article, going left to right, as the English language is known to do, you’re constantly encountering new ads, as well as links to other articles. This has the effect of filling the page much more than the previous sources I looked at, which I like generally, but it definitely can distract you from what you were reading, if you’re the type to get easily distracted (I am). The article itself is divided into 3 sections- the first is an introduction, it lays out the central Thing, be that a problem or event, in this case it’s the issue of the overwhelming number of arrests for minor pot-related offenses. The second and third sections then approach that Thing from different angles, giving the most comprehensive overview.
Urban Milwaukee: New DNR Program Promotes Climate Change
The first thing that struck me, looking at Urban Milwaukee, was that its font felt small? They’re using a thin typeface, and it really feels like they could’ve blown up the text size more, especially considering the gaps on either side of said text. The article I focused on for this analysis was “New DNR Program Promotes Climate Change”, it is comprised of direct/indirect quotes and summaries, and it’s otherwise brief, so they’re largely just reiterating varying statements sourced from people related to the new program.
To the right of the article, there are bunches of articles, the latest releases, recent press releases, and their three (currently) most popular articles, among others. Above, there’s varying tabs for things that may be relevant to a Milwaukee citizen, from Arts & Entertainment to Real Estate. My general read of this site is that it’s very bare bones, and that it’s attempting to maintain some of the features that were lost in the transition from physical to digital, such as property listings. It has the aura of something that isn’t finished, but in a good way, like this isn’t its final iteration.
Milwaukee Mag: Scooters Are Returning to Milwaukee's Streets
Milwaukee Mag feels like it’s owned by Condé Nast, like the homepage is indiscernible from Vogue or Them., very polished, in a manner that feels manufactured. When opening an article, you’re greeted with a plug for their Instagram and newsletter, that takes up roughly a fourth of the page. Additionally, in the article that I chose to examine, “Scooters Are Returning to Milwaukee’s Streets”, there is another ad for a Milwaukee Mag product, around the same size as the cover image, inserted right after the article’s introductory section, which I thought was particularly disruptive. Beyond these issues however, I found the formatting to be satisfactory, the text was readable, there weren’t any other disruptions after the introduction, and they include a government link at the bottom of the article for people that want to know more.
Milwaukee Record: IDLES treat Riverside Theater to ferocious, fun performance
The Milwaukee Record is a delightful eyesore. Like, all of the content of the site is layered on top of a massive ad spread for a local lawyer, and none of the ad has a snowball’s chance in hell in being readable, or even decipherable. On a technical level, it is objectively terrible, but personally I find it incredibly funny.
Onto the article formatting itself, the article I looked at was “IDLES treat Riverside Theater to ferocious, fun performance”. Its formatting is effective, the text mixing info on the band with narrative descriptions of the concert, as well as having a selection of the band’s music videos embedded in the article. Just like, the articles themselves are formatted well, and dropdown menu tabs all seem useful and informative, but all of it is layered on top of a Gruber Law ad, and that’s kinda indefensible.
Milwaukee Courier: What College Students Need to Know About Monkeypox
The Milwaukee Courier is sound on function, and its aesthetic is similarly functional. It isn’t particularly pretty, nor is it difficult to look at. My only complaints with it are that the text is a shade of light grey against white, which strains the eyes, and that the website wasn’t optimized for. The article I looked at for this was “What College Students Need to Know About Monkeypox”, it features a stock image of students walking as its cover image, it also has a portrait of someone relating to the article under that, which definitely could be disruptive for a reader, but that feels unique to this article. There really isn’t much to be said for the site, it’s utilitarian, it communicates necessary information with minimal friction, and that’s all it does.
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: Wisconsin: Land of plenty includes plenty of ‘food deserts’
Milwaukee NNS feels well-formatted but lacking in flavor. The dropdown menu has logical categories, a tab to switch between English and Spanish is at the top, directly below that is a lil search bar, and a ‘recent news’ tab occupies the space directly to the article’s right. The site is designed very similarly to the Courier, in the sense that it communicates information in a very utilitarian sort of way, without bells or whistles or shiny things to click, the closest thing to that being the related images that are featured in the article itself. The article I looked at was “Wisconsin: Land of plenty includes plenty of ‘food deserts’”, and it was a longform piece, which was different from the others I looked at, and it has all the design hallmarks, the bolding of section titles being a big one. I think it's cool that a student-run(?) group can find the time to produce a longform piece, that was neat.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: President Biden celebrates union gains during speech at Milwaukee's Laborfest, continues broadside against 'MAGA Republicans'
I knew that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was a part of USA Today, before even seeing the ‘USA TODAY’ tab on the dropdown menu. It is functionally identical to USA Today; the only true difference is that the Sentinel is more focused in Milwaukee. The article I chose to examine was “President Biden celebrates union gains during speech at Milwaukee's Laborfest, continues broadside against 'MAGA Republicans'”, it had the headline at the top, followed by the authors, then the date and time the piece was published. Below that is an embedded video of Biden’s speech, which pops out and continues playing if you scroll past it, which I think most people find annoying? The article itself is longform, and features multiple embedded videos and images, as well as subsections within the article, highlighted by a bolded title above each new section. Curiously, there’s an X in the top right-hand corner of the article at all times, and when you click it, it takes you to the Sentinel homepage? Which feels just a tad superfluous, considering that there already exists a button to take you back to the homepage, but who’s to say? Lastly, at the end of the article is a photo album of stills from the event, I presume for other publications to use? Or maybe historical archivists, that would also make sense.