Also Not About Research: Why Can’t Newspapers Figure The Internet Out?

Looks like I’m adding a couple hundred more words to the millions already written this year about Why The Media is Dying. This screencap from a New York Times article today about famous people hiring people to “ghost twitter” for them:


You’d think those links (or, as I’m sure they call them at the Times, hyperlinks), which appear throughout the story for just about ever well-known person they mention, would go to the corresponding Twitter accounts, right?

Of course they don’t. They go to pages the Times has built that contain links to all the other NYT stories about those people. (And, hilariously, both Obama links go to the same place.)

How can they possibly be this bad at the internet?

There is, as always, a lesson for researchers mixed in: there’s no point using new technology if you ignore the advantages it gives you. Don’t make people re-enter demographic information that’s already in your database; don’t make people select their state from a pull-down menu when you could just let them click on a map. Don’t make people hit a “submit” button when you could just auto-advance once they click their response. Recognize that Flash is pretty much universal by now and there’s really no reason not to take advantage of what it can do.

Don’t be a newspaper.



Filed under bad user experiences, social media, the web is a visual medium

4 responses to “Also Not About Research: Why Can’t Newspapers Figure The Internet Out?

  1. Hey, funny question for you. Do you think everyone can pick out their state/province on a map? I’ve heard terrible statistics on this and wonder just how true it is.

  2. You know, that would be a seriously fascinating test to run. I don’t run a lot of web research myself (and when I do, I know where the panelist lives so I don’t waste his time by re-asking), but I always just figured it just would work, as long as you made it easy for those in the northeast to click the state they mean to. State outline images seem like they’re everywhere — on weather maps, on the little “locator maps” they show on TV with a little dot to show where the story is taking place, on state documents like our licenses — but I shouldn’t put anything past the masses.

    Of course, there’s always the question of whether you’re going to get any useful data out of such a respondent…

    I wonder if the problem has more to do with actually picking out their state, or more to do with actually clicking accurately. Only one way to find out!

  3. Well, you might be surprised how many people can’t find their own country, let alone state/province or city on a map.

    We used to have this “holiday” program on a map where people needed to point out the place that they were at on a map. Not so easy, apparently! After that they asked them about their own country (The Netherlands in our case), and even that proved to be quite hard! Ofcourse there is some bias because this show would maybe broadcast the exceptions, but still…

    A general rule is that you don’t want to make the survey a knowledge quiz, just so you’re absolutely sure the whole range of your sample can fill in everything.

    I agree that some further research as to what is common knowledge anyway might be very interesting.

  4. Pingback: No Biscuit: Fouten in online research | Bijgespijkerd

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