How can you know if an online source is credible?
When I first visit an online publication, I judge it by the overall visual representation. The way it looks is a big factor in determining credibility to me. Appearance can define much more than just the way a site looks; it’s the way it works. When I visit an online publication (or any website really), I automatically deem it as credible or not it based on all aspects of the design: images, banners, and logos (are they of high quality and match the page?), fonts (are they professional and consistent?), navigation (is it easy to find things?), etc.
Specific, organized navigation is vital. If there are too many tabs, it might be hard to find what you're looking for. The "about", "contact," "submissions," and "issues" tabs are important and should be easily accessible. Sometimes this information may fall under different names/links, which is fine as long as they are accessible. Some websites have overly cluttered navigation, which doesn’t bode well for 1) you finding out how to submit work to it or 2) someone finding your work on that site if you get published.
I looked into a couple of Orlando-based publications to compare their credibility in terms of design. The http://www.thedailycity.com/ (Links to an external site.) was by far the least visually appealing to me. It had way too many links in the main navigation bar, the overall layout was not very appealing, the fonts were inconsistent (Times New Roman mixed with Georgia), the contact information was somewhat hard to locate (down the side of the page), and it just wasn’t very well organized. Not all of it was bad, I’m sure there were a lot of good things too, but I was distracted by the bad.
Aside from appearance, there are other factors that I take into consideration when determining credibility. Content is a big one. And not just what’s being said but how it’s being said. For example, if there are grammatical errors in content, I’m less likely to trust the online source. Another factor would be the writers and their credibility. If authors have a short bio and links to other writings (the more the better), I feel like they are a more credible source. As far as what’s in their bio goes, I think it depends on the type of publication source. If it’s a news publication, I might want to know their education, position/where they work, and how long they have been in the field. If it’s a humorous publication, I might want to know random facts about them that are funny. I also think that a source is more credible if it has a wide range of authors; however, if there are too many it might seem overwhelming and it might seem like they just let anyone post things on their website. To me, it’s nicer to see that there is a wide range of authors that have written multiple pieces for the site than to see countless people who have only written one or two things. I guess that might all depend on the type of publication too, but I’m speaking generally – this is how I feel for most online publications. Basically, I want to know that the people writing know what they are writing about, and care about it.
I think all of the links for literary magazines had places to submit work. I liked the overall simplicity of the Burrow Press Review website. They have submission guidelines onhttp://www.burrowpressreview.com/about/ (Links to an external site.) and they are very clear. I think if a publication is going to accept submissions, they do need to be clear on their guidelines. I think submissions can boost credibility of a site for sure - especially if the submission guidelines and acceptances are professional, and "every submission gets a fair and thorough read” (Burrow Press Review). Those things show that the publication truly cares about the quality of their work.
I think comment boards can be helpful to a publication if they are monitored for spam. Most people usually ignore the comment sections, but sometimes it’s nice to have a place to discuss specific articles. With news sites like http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ (Links to an external site.) for example, there is a “Conversations” section beneath each article. This not only shows that a lot of people are reading the article, but that a lot of people are engaging in conversation about the article.
For my own writing, I would ideally like to publish on a website that meets all of the above criteria for my idea of being “credible”, but I’m definitely not going to be that picky. I also think reach and readership are extremely important. Any online publication that has the ability to reach audiences that I would be targeting through my writing would be a good destination for me. I don’t know much about it, but after viewing http://thedropp.com/ (Links to an external site.) I thought it might be a good publication to write for, or suggest an article or event, or submit my own art/music for review as it says in their contact box. Their site is very visually appealing, their content is interesting and varied; however, I couldn’t find information on authors of articles. I also don’t know how popular the site is, I’d never heard of it, I’m not sure what their reach is. It would be necessary to do research more before deciding on what would be good destinations for my writing. But in general, I would like to write for sites that interest me and are “credible” in the eyes of most people (or in other words, people would read it).
How do you decide what is credible? What do you look for in a publication? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
This is my blog for projects throughout college!