Labels Matter: “Blog” vs. “News”

A diagram of a watermelon, mistakenly labeled as an apple.
Figure 1. An Example of Mislabeling

Most websites have a section devoted to time-sensitive content. Some people call this section “News.” Others call it a “Blog.” When clicking either “Blog” or “News” in a  website menu, a site visitor makes assumptions about the page they’re going to:

  • It’s updated frequently.
  • It probably produces an RSS feed.
  • Maybe the most recent posts feed into the homepage.

However, there are other subtle differences between the terms “News” and “Blog” that I think are worth making explicit.

Setting and then meeting expectations is one of the most important parts of effective web design, and almost every choice when assembling a website–color, layout, imagery, and, in this case, labeling–sets an expectation in a user’s mind. By appropriately labeling your site’s section devoted to dynamic content, you will give your site’s users a better experience. ((And then you have to produce the most amazing content anyone has ever read. But that’s another blog post for another day.))

Blog

“Blog” is probably the more popular label to use. It’s hip and exciting and comes loaded with expectations. Those expectations include:

  • Opinion or analysis-driven commentary.
  • Written by an author or authors with a clear voice, giving character to the site and site owner.
  • Intent to foster engagement and conversation (social media sharing and commenting on articles are encouraged).

News

“News” is a little drier, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Users will figure out the difference even if you call your news section “Blog.” Be honest. Compared to “Blogs,” “News” sections are characterized by:

  • An “official” voice announcing changes regarding the site or site owner.
  • Content is normally more like a “press release.”
  • Information transmission is more one-way (site → reader).

Set Expectations. Meet Expectations.

Those characteristics certainly aren’t etched in stone. Websites are malleable and evolving and there is room for other models. In fact, I use a hybrid approach: a blog with some posts categorized as “News.”

“News” and “Blog” are probably the most common labels, but I’ve seen everything from “Musings” to “Press Center.” It’s fine to experiment and use a term that makes sense to your niche of the web. Just remember, expectations come from previous repeated experiences. If you use a term not normally found in website navigation, user’s have little prior knowledge on which to base a guess of what’s behind that link.

What’s most important is that your label accomplish two tasks:

  • Set an expectation for website visitors.
  • Meet that expectation.

Done in 60 Seconds.

So when building your site, consider the types of dynamic content you’ll be posting. Is it a blog, news page, or something else? Most of the time, it shouldn’t be a hard decision, you just have to devote the minute it takes to make it.

Whatever you do, be honest with your reader and they’ll be more likely to pay you back with their attention.

Source Image (Some Rights Reserved).

4 thoughts on “Labels Matter: “Blog” vs. “News””

  1. Thanks for your view on this. I have just finished up a blog and was trying to decide on whether one of my menus should be labeled as blog or news. I can’t help but think that my readers may give more credit to a menu labeled “News” for real estate over “Blog”. The permalink looks better too as in ../sw-florida/NEWS/market-trends IMHO.

    1. Thanks for weighing in! As you say, in the business and nonprofit worlds, I think “News” is the more “professional” way to go, which is what many audiences are probably looking for.

  2. I’ve considered them two different things and function differently, so you could have both. News is just a feed of industry news; whereas, a blog is like you mentioned: from an author of the company.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Wes. I think I agree with you, though I’m not sure that they’re different in the technical details of implementation. It may also be hard for some users to distinguish the two if they’re presented on the same site. In those cases, I favor at least providing a “firehose” stream of all posts somewhere so people can easily follow all new posts.

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