Hey Plain Dealer, it is crazy that Terry Pluto is not the easiest thing to find on your home page every day

Hi, Cleveland.com. You don’t know me, but I read you every day. I grew up in Mayfield Hts. and live in Los Angeles. I am a Cleveland sports fan. Naturally, I read the Plain Dealer online every day. You keep me informed about the teams I follow and I thank you.

I have a request.

It’s mutually beneficial.

Can you please make Terry Pluto’s column easier to find on your home page? The man is your best asset. He is — in the parlance of this Browns fan– your Peyton Hillis. He’s reliable. He’s sometimes spectacular. He’s a crowd favorite. Your paper employs many fine columnists. He is your finest. He’s smart. He does actual reporting. And he cares.

So I must ask: Why do you bury Terry Pluto “beneath the fold” on your home page? Why must I squint my eyes and scroll down your home page to find a link to Terry Pluto? Why is your Peyton Hills, as far as the home page is concerned, on the bench during the coin flip when he should be standing at mid-field with the team captains?

Is it office politics? Is it institutional inertia? Is it ignorance?

I work in online publishing. Trust me on this one. You want to make it easier for people to find Terry Pluto’s columns. You want cleveland.com and Terry Pluto to be synonymous.

I see your design. It looks very fair. It looks like you are trying to give other teams and other sports equal play. The Web is not a democracy. All content is not created equal. Placing content above Mr. Pluto on the home page will not make people more likely to click on that content. It makes me less likely to go to the home page at all.

Terry Pluto is a reason to come back to your home page, again and again. When something happens in the world of Cleveland sports, I want to know Terry Pluto’s take and I go to Cleveland.com to get it, and I squint and I scroll and wonder why some of your most highly-valued content is so hard to find. Or at least I used to. Now I often go to Pluto’s Facebook page, bypassing the PD entirely. I bet I’m not the only one doing so.

The more prominently you feature Pluto on the home page, the less likely I am to go directly to your Terry Pluto page which, judging by the ad for a charity you have placed on the right rail, is not nearly as lucrative ad real estate as the home page, with its larger ads from bigger businesses. In addition to being a sound editorial decision, what I’m suggesting is good business, which is the best of all worlds for publishers.

Not that you asked, but if I was you, I would have a home page box that linked to anything Pluto wrote recently. When you do have a fresh Pluto column on the home page, as you do today, call it out so readers know who wrote it. “LeBron’s Long, Sad Summer” and the accompanying teaser copy does not tell me this piece was written by one of your best writers. It made me think someone wrote a children’s book about the NBA Finals.

I know. It’s easy for me to take shots at your home page. If you’re like most newspapers in America, your staff is overworked and underpaid. I get it. But if it’s within your power, do yourself and your readers a favor. Put a spotlight on your best player. Let your Peyton Hillis lead you out of the tunnel every day.

I have now used up all of my allotted sports metaphors for the year. Great.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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