While my primary job is to be the conduit back to the newsroom of readers’ feedback about how The Kansas City Star and KansasCity.com cover the news, it’s probably not surprising to hear that I spend a great deal of time helping readers with navigation. Every week, I point people to the online directory of how to contact the many different departments, or help them find out how to place an ad, submit an obituary, or get information about their print subscriptions.
By the way, KansasCity.com actually does a very good job of organizing much of this information in a single, easy-to-find location. Check the black bar at the very top and very bottom of every page on the site. There you’ll find just about every piece of info you need to route your question.
The Star has increased its online offerings greatly through the years, and today there’s an especially big variety. There’s the main website of course, where access is unlimited to subscribers with a Star Plus account, whether print, digital or both. That Plus account also gives you access to the E-Star, which is an exact online facsimile of the print edition, and includes searchable pages back to 2007. Plus members also get access to text archives back to the 1990s. And then of course there is also Disqus, which lets users post comments to stories on KansasCity.com (as it does for thousands of other sites).
But all these different ways to interact come with a built-in problem: Each is run by a different company that uses its own login information that isn’t shared among the others. That’s true of many other media companies such as The Star, too, by the way. It doesn’t make sense for every regional paper to come up with its own electronic facsimile edition system, as well as archives, commenting and everything else. A small number of outside vendors have stepped in to focus on providing narrow services that are used by many sites. That’s good from the standpoint that it allows those services to focus on doing one thing right. And to use the example of the E-Star, readers tell me all the time that they think it’s an excellent product.
Unfortunately, there’s as of now no lingua franca among the companies that provide these services to other websites. The Disqus commenting system is the most flexible, allowing users to log in with their existing Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts if they wish. But they can also have a separate Disqus account too.
Confused yet? Believe me —you aren’t alone. I do know the main editors who oversee the site are aware of the issues users face in juggling multiple logins, and would like to find a single-account solution. Stay tuned.