Emergence author Stephen Johnson spends a week with Technorati’s Breaking News and reports how metaheadline sites take the pulse of our reading habits and distribute the buzz. It’s vintage SJ. The piece covers why Technorati started, compares headlines in top-down media versus the bottom-up selections, and explores why some headlines get more links that others.
After finding a great read about why humans cry in the Financial Times, he sums up the benefit of collaborative news filtering: “Somewhere I had an editor and a writer to thank for producing the story, but I also had another group to thank for finding this one among the clutter and sharing it: the distributed eyes of the Daily Us.”
Sidenote: After searching all over the page to find a printer-friendly version of Johnson’s article on Discover.com, we finally discovered the grey buttons at the top of the page.
Thinking it was a browser mistake, we finally clicked on “what are these?” only to reveal that they are “members-only” services (and thus greyed out). This means emailing a friend and rating the story is something only their members/subscribers should do. Why do media outlets continually try to discourage the formation of a social network around their stories? Fortunately, with the blogosphere and services like Technorati and GoogleNews, we can do it without them.
I manage a recipe website and very soon will be making the printer-friendly version of recipes available to members only. Registration is free. There are a number of reasons why we’re doing this. One is that we will email people a week after they’ve printed the recipe to see how they got on - any comments will be posted up on the site. Secondly, we need to increase the number of registrations and I think it’s reasonable for some facilities to be held back for those willing to express greater commitment.
All the best,
ian, i respect the need to increase registrations from an advertising perspective. but look at what discover.com is hiding behind this wall:
1. emailing articles: this brings more exposure to their articles. it would stand to reason that you would want your readers to spread the word about your information.
2. rating articles: usually, the more ratings, the better. it would stand to reason you would want ALL readers, not just supposedly committed readers, to give their rating.
3. add to my topic alert: ok, i can buy this as special service to registered users.
4. bookmarking: give me a break.
5. printer-friendly: usually, this is a convenience you offer readers who don’t like to read on screen. i would think that discover.com wants as many regular readers as possible for it’s stories. this is a barrier to that goal. in your case, special printing templates (like formatted index cards) are a really nice service and it would stand to reason that registration would be a fair exchange.
the problems here are compounded by a confusing design. it’s not clear why this buttons are not functional. nor is it clear that you must exchange personal information for these services.
every time someone visits your site is an opportunity to convert them to a loyal, regular reader. this experience simply doesn’t do it.
Shayne, I agree with you on discover.com! :-)
All the best,