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September 20 2010

09:58

September 08 2010

14:30

July 16 2010

18:35

Google News revamps its revamped design

Late last month, Google News launched a redesign of its site. The basic idea was to make the news platform — and the news itself — more easily customizable for users: Google added a “news for you” section (a personally tailored headline stream), and the ability to indicate preferred news sources “to give you more control over the news that you see.”

In theory, the changes were useful: a way to empower users to personalize their news experience while — through the platform’s Spotlight and Top Stories sections — still preserving a bit of serendipity. In practice, though…it was a different story. At least on our site, users’ reactions to the redesign were rather negative pretty scathing. Some of the feedback we received on our post:

It sucks. I used to have customized sections, with a specific layout and number of news items in each section.
The new layout throws everything up in random order, in one very very long column, without any sections.

And it forces me to read a very very very long list of Spotlight items that don’t interest me. I can’t seem to change the number of items in Spotlight, nor the location of it (very prominent on the right hand side column).

I hate the new Google News. I really really really hate it.

[...]

I hate it too. Google, please put it back the way it was!

[...]

I also do not like the new layout. I like being able to scan various topics and not have my sports, world news, tech, medical, EVERYTHING mixed in together. Sometimes I feel like looking at the top entertainment stories first, sometimes I want to look at medical news first. Everything now is just jumbled together and I am suddenly forced to read headlines that maybe I am not all that interested in this moment in time.

[...]

The new format is terrible. Where to start: Way too busy, can’t find anyting, visually unappealing.
Yuck! bring back the old one, I am already looking for alternatives!

[...]

I have had to find new source for my news because:

*1* The new page is a jumble of information, it’s impossible to find anything.

*2* My carefully constructed page disappeared overnight replaced by this jumble.

*3* Personalization results in stories from Los Angeles being featured even though LA is over 700 miles from where I live and has no relevance to us here at all.

*4* I could care less about sports, but the World Cup dominated the page for days.

Watch my stats, google. I’m done with your jumbled-up mess of what was the best news aggragator in the world. So, from the comments above, are many other of your loyal followers and we’re only the ones who care enough to try to stop your leap off the cliff.

There’s much more in that vein. And while our commenters, in number, don’t make for a scientific sample, it seems that those who shared reactions weren’t alone in their dislike of Google News’ new interface. Last night, in a blog post titled “Google changes reflect your feedback,” Google News product manager Chris Beckmann announced the rollout of updates in the platform’s appearance and, therefore, its usability. While pointing out that “hundreds of thousands of you have already customized your Google News homepages,” Beckmann also noted that “some of you wrote in to say you missed certain aspects of the previous design, such as the ability to see results grouped by section (U.S., Business, etc.) in two columns.”

At Google, we’re all about launching and iterating, so we’ve been making improvements to the design in response to your feedback. For example, we’re now showing the entire cluster of articles for each story, rather than expanding the cluster when you hover your mouse over it. We’ve given you the ability to hide the weather forecast from your local news section. We made the option to switch between List view and Section view more obvious. And today we’re adding a third option in “News for you”: Two-column view, which shows the three top stories from each section…

Here’s what it looks like:

The changes, in all, are fairly minor; the average user, having not read Beckmann’s post, might not even notice the updates. (Since, when it comes to online interfaces, users tend to like things the way they’re used to, that’s a smart way to roll out changes: incrementally and, for the most part, unobtrusively.) But the subtle revamp indicates Google’s willingness — a willingness that’s part of its organizational DNA — to tweak its news platform according to the feedback it receives. Guiding users while also being receptive to them: seems a pretty good balance to me.

June 03 2010

21:31

January 22 2010

15:06

This Week in Review: The New York Times’ paywall plans, and what’s behind MediaNews’ bankruptcy

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s news about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

The Times’ paywall proposal: No question about media and journalism’s biggest story this week: The New York Times announced it plans to begin charging readers for access to its website in 2011. Here’s how it’ll work: you can view an as-yet-unidentified number of articles for free each month before the Times requires you to pay a flat, unlimited-access fee to see more; this is known as a metered system. (If you subscribe to the print edition, it’ll be free.) Two Times execs answered questions about the plan, including whether you can still email and link to articles (you can) and why it’s different from TimesSelect, the abandoned paid-content experiment it tried from 2005-07. Gabriel Sherman of New York’s Daily Intel, who broke the rumor on Sunday, has some details of the paywall debate within the Times.

There’s been a ton of reaction to the Times’ plan online, so I’ll tackle it in three parts: First, the essential reading, then some other worthwhile opinions, and finally the interesting ephemera.

Four must-reads: It makes sense to start with New York Times media critic David Carr’s take on the plan, because it’s the most the thorough, cogent defense of the Times’ paywall you’ll find. He argues that Times execs “have installed a dial on the huge, heaving content machine of The New York Times,” giving the site another flexible revenue stream outside of advertising. If you’re up for a little algebra, Reuters’ Felix Salmon has a sharp economic analysis of the paywall, arguing that the value of each article will become much greater for subscribers than nonsubscribers. For the more theoretical-minded, CUNY prof C.W. Anderson has some fascinating thoughts here at the Lab on how the paywall turns the Times into a niche product and what it means for our concept of the “public.” And as usual, Ken Doctor thoughtfully answers many of the practical questions you’re asking right now.

Other thoughtful opinions: Poynter’s Bill Mitchell poses a lot of great business questions and wonders how the Times will handle putting the burden on its most loyal online-only users. Steve Yelvington reminds us that we’re not going to learn much here that we can apply to other papers, because “the Times is fundamentally in a different business than regional dailies” and “a single experiment with a single price point by a single newspaper is just a stab in the dark.” Before the announcement, former Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing, Forrester Research’s James McQuivey, and Reuters’ Felix Salmon gave the Times advice on constructing its paywall, almost none of which showed up in the Times’ plans. Two massive tech blogs, TechCrunch and Mashable, think the paywall won’t amount to much. Slate’s Jack Shafer says people will find ways to get around it, NYU’s Jay Rosen echoes C.W. Anderson’s thoughts on niche vs. public, and CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis doesn’t like the Times’ sense of entitlement.

The ephemera: The best stuff on Twitter about the announcement was collected at E&P In Exile and the new site MediaCritic. Steve Outing and Jason Fry don’t like the wait ’til 2011, and Cory Doctorow is skeptical that that’s even true. Former E&Pers Fitz & Jen interview a few newspaper execs and find that (surprise, surprise) the like the Times’ idea. So does Steven Brill of Journalism Online, who plans to roll out a few paywalls of his own soon. Dan Gillmor wants the Times to find out from readers what new features they’d pay for, and Jeff Sonderman makes two good points: “The major casualty of NYT paywall is sharing,” and “Knowing the ‘meter is running’ creates cautious viewing of the free articles.”

Apple’s tablet to go public: Apple announced that it will unveil its “latest creation” (read: its new tablet) next Wednesday. Since the announcement came a day after word of the Times’ paywall plans broke, it was only natural that the rumors would merge. The Daily Intel’s Gabriel Sherman, who broke the story of those Times plans, quoted Times officials putting the Times-tablet-deal rumors to rest. The Wall Street Journal detailed Apple’s plans for the tablet to do to newspapers, magazines and TV what the iPod did to music. Meanwhile, Columbia j-student Vadim Lavrusik and TechCrunch’s Paul Carr got tired of the tablet hype — Lavrusik for the print industry and Carr for tech geeks. (The Week also has a great timeline of the rumors.)

MediaNews goes bankrupt: Last Friday, MediaNews Group — a newspaper chain that publishes the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury-News, among others — announced it would file for bankruptcy protection. (A smaller chain, Morris Publishing Group, made the same announcement the day before.) For the facts and background of the filing, we’ve got a few sources: At the Lab, MediaNews veteran Martin Langeveld has a whole lot of history and insight on MediaNews chief Dean Singleton. News business analyst Alan Mutter tells us about the amazing fact that Singleton will come out of the filing unscathed but Hearst, which invested in MediaNews to save the San Francisco Chronicle, stands to lose $317 million in the deal. And MinnPost reports that the St. Paul Pioneer Press was the only MediaNews paper losing money.

Looking at the big picture, Ken Doctor says that bankruptcies like these are just a chance for newspapers to buy time while adjusting their strategy in “the fog of media war.” Steve Outing takes a glass-half-full approach, arguing that the downfall of old-media chains like MediaNews are a great opportunity for journalism startups to build a new news ecosystem.

How much do Google News users read?: An annual study by research firm Outsell and Ken Doctor on online and offline news preferences made waves by reporting that 44 percent of Google News users scan headlines without clicking through to the original articles. PaidContent noted that Outsell has a dog in this fight; it openly advocates that news organizations should get more money from Google. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan was not impressed, giving a thorough critique of the study and its perceived implications. Syracuse j-prof Vin Crosbie also wondered whether the same pattern might be true with print headlines.

In a similar vein, BNET’s David Weir used comScore numbers to argue that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft support big newspapers, and Jeff Jarvis made one of his favorite arguments — in defense of the link.

Heartbreak in Haiti: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the journalism and media connections to the largest news story in the world for the past two weeks — the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Several sites noted that Twitter led the way in breaking news of the quake and in raising money for relief. The money aspect is new, but as Columbia j-prof Sree Sreenivasan noted last June, Twitter came of age a long time ago as a medium for breaking global news. That’s what it does. The coverage also provided an opportunity for discussion about the ethics of giving aid while reporting.

Reading roundup: In addition to being out in front of the whole New York Times paywall story, Gabriel Sherman authored a nice, long think piece for The New Republic on the difficulties of one of America’s other great newspapers, The Washington Post. For what it’s worth, Post patriarch Donald Graham thought it was “not even a molehill.”

Over at Snarkmarket, Robin Sloan uses the economic concept of stock and flow to describe the delicate balance between timeliness and permanence the world of online media. It’s a brilliant idea — a must-read.

Finally, a promising new site named MediaCritic, run by Salon veteran Scott Rosenberg, citizen journalism advocate Dan Gillmor, and Lucasfilm’s Bill Gannon, had its soft launch this week. It looks like it’s going to include some nifty features, like Rosenberg’s regular curation of Twitter commentary on big media subjects.

December 14 2009

20:47

December 13 2009

23:10
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