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WRA Project 1: Web Genre Analysis Report TO: Bill Hart-Davidson, WRA 210 Instructor FR: Eric M. Vrtis DT: 9/26/2007 RE: Analyzing the Genre of TV Network Websites Overview The focus of this project report is to present a comprehensive analysis of television network web sites. I chose this genre as the focus of my investigation after very long (arduous) consideration of any and all types of web sites I can expect to be involved in down the road. Since I haven’t the slightest premonition of a visage of my future career, and I have little propensity to do digital work, I decided to take a different approach. I turned on the television. Animal Planet. I saw a chimpanzee smashing a rock over some variety of shelled foodstuffs, and I envied the chimp for her ingenuity and practical implementation of a very rudimentary tool. I thought “Why can’t project one be so simple!” and I directed my attention to the Animal Planet website, hoping for some inspiration. What happened next is still a mystery. I found myself perusing discover.com, The Discovery Channel’s homepage, and realized that I was having fun--I’ll explain what is so fun about discovery.com later on—and what you’re reading is the result of a careful analytical examination of what I’m calling “The TV Network Website” genre, and I will speak mostly about my research of discovery.com. Writers & Developers of the Discovery Channel Web Site There must be a ton of people working to keep this site up-and-running, far too many to be accredited on the web page. The authors have chosen not to identify their contributors, and the authors themselves remain anonymous as well. By authors I mean the top-tier designers who manage the upkeep and ensure the sustainability of the website, acting as the Internet’s “editors-in-chief.” I imagine they are the ones ultimately determining the content, presentation, and layout of the media contained within the site. These designers are probably working internally as part of Discovery Communications. The people who actually contribute content and write for the site fill quite a different niche than the aforementioned authors, but remain equally anonymous. The news headlines are pooled from outside sources, such as the Associated Press. The writer would normally be mentioned in the original article, but in these instances the identity of the writer is unimportant. The user who looks at discovery.com for the news is likely more interested in the content covered in each article than he or she is interested to know the author. The games are created by designers and programmers, and the interactive featurette modules are perfected at the hands of internet folk and computer experts. The games and featurettes, by the way, are incredibly fun, and really epitomize the Discovery mission: to make learning enjoyable while remaining authentic, useful, and technologically cutting-edge. Audiences & Users of the Discovery Channel Web Site Right away I thought that the only people who would really be looking at this website were regular viewers of the Discovery Channel who wanted to stay up-to-date on their favorite shows. Alas, they are not the only users of discovery.com. The site is useful for anyone who is wanting to acquire news (granted, readers of the discovery.com news feed are likely to be viewers of the network) about stargazing, space station bickering, and how to pick the perfect pooch. The pathways are open-ended and discovery.com allows the user a great deal of freedom in exploring their site. Other users may want to purchase a DVD set or watch video highlights, which are both clearly- presented options on the main page. I imagine the site being bookmarked for frequent personal use for checking up on the news feed and finding out about new shows and specials. The featurettes actually make good reference material as a quick learning tool. Format & Organization of the Discovery Channel Web Site Discovery.com is organized in such a way that any visitor to the website would be capable of finding what he or she was looking for. The banner flashes images from the news, from current feauturettes, and from the Discovery Channel’s TV shows. By clicking on this banner visitors can be directed to whatever news story or featurette they choose. If a visitor chooses not to click on the banner—an exercise in futulity; eventually you’ll see something you like on there—he or she will notice that along the top of the web page is a row of links to other Discovery networks, a la The Learning Channel and the aforementioned Animal Planet. If you know you found the right site, but don’t know how to find what you’re looking for, then you can type your query into the search bar located directly below the network links. The final component of the header is the drop-down tab menu and a (self) promotion for the Discovery Channel Store, “Shop Now.” If you have time to spare, you can watch one of the top videos that are streaming through up on the right side, next to the banner. There is also a really thin advertisement in here, with the option to “Expand” and the warming that it is indeed an “Advertisement.” Below this ad is perhaps the most interesting part of the web site. The News Headlines, Popular Features, and Top Games windows are what set discovery.com (and many other network TV sites) apart from most other websites because they offer more than what the organization itself would be able to provide otherwise. Not all organizations are structured that way, so that their website can offer a new distinct service that aids the presentation of the organization’s purpose. In doing so, the website really adds a new dimension to modern broadcasting. I mean, psh…discovery.com has games. TV shows can’t do that. Which leads me to my next point. Interactivity in discovery.com The interactivity of discovery.com is the site’s most noteworthy stylistic quality. Since the designers put so much consideration into that aspect of their site, I decided to highlight interactivity first and foremost in my parody page. The first thing to catch the visitor’s eye is the banner. The user can watch the slideshow and determine which path he or she is going to take while browsing the site. The video clips work in the same way. Simple, but interactive nonetheless. The “Features” and “Games” sections are where discovery.com goes beyond simple user-site communication and really makes room for interacting. The “Features” include weekly Cash Cab quizzes, graphic representations of how a volcano erupts, an interactive introduction to global warming’s signs and symptoms, the ultimate shark quiz, and a “Mars Exploration Timeline.” All of these features have a strong visual foundation and require the user to provide input to run the feature. I still can’t get over the games. The Internet really is going to monopolize the media world. First it happened to music, then videos, and soon video games. On discovery.com there is a Man vs. Wilde Game, the Cannon Challenge, a Deadliest Catch Game, an option to Build a Coaster, and a pretty sweet real-life shark tracking game that I’m now involved in, tracking real life sharks along the California coast. These games are not as interactive as, say, a Nintendo Wii system, but they are very interesting virtual simulators. Most importantly, these games are very closely related to the content of Discovery Channel television shows and advance the organization’s mission to promote fun learning in a high-tech (digital) world. Use of Visuals in discovery.com Aside from the dynamic interactive media, discovery.com employs a number of visual techniques to attract visitors. The designers chose simple colors, soft blues and bluish grays on a white background, and a rather straightforward table set up to keep the presentation simple. The authors clearly decided that they were not going to allow distracting colors and clumsy layout to interfere with the conveying of information. The information itself is presented via an easy-reading sans serif font and pictures. Most of the pictures are from television shows, others seem to have been taken for the site, such as the photos in the “Discovery of the Day” box. Range of Variation between discovery.com and other network television websites I notice that discovery.com and most other network sites tend to adhere closely to modern web standards. ESPN.com is not quite as interactive and perhaps is more clumsily arranged than discovery.com, but still offers many different pathways to the user and includes streaming video on the home page. MTV has a similar slideshow banner and offers information about their shows, but does not have any games or even video on their main page. The conclusion is that all major network TV websites adhere to web standards and also fulfill a certain set of criteria: provide show info and show times, include pictures and/or video, supply news relating to content and purpose, and most importantly enhance the success of the organization as a whole. However, discovery.com does it best. The authors combine cutting-edge technology with modern science to provide new, entertaining, and informative methods of learning for the general public.
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