Thursday, August 31, 2006

Will Success On-Line Be Linked To Success In Print?

The more I use the Internet, the more I become a fan of the printed word.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy podcasts, audio streams, and the occasional video. I just find that print is the most efficient way to get information from the web.

It's much faster to get the headlines or capture the essence of a story through print than any other means. On my reasonably fast computer it takes about 10-seconds to get audio after clicking on the hourly newscast link at At Google News, I can scan 8-10 headlines in that first 10-seconds.

During a recent test of this theory, I heard exactly one story after listening to the NPR newscast for 1-minute, 15-seconds. On Google News, I read 4 stories in the same amount of time. A nice feature of Google News is that you can quickly scan and select from dozens of news sources covering the same story. Want a Louisiana perspective on the Katrina anniversary? Easy to find.

This isn't a criticism of radio. Far from it. But it is a good reminder of how people use the web. They click, they scan, they click and scan some more.

For public radio to get the most out of its web presence, it’s probably going to have to be as good or better at using the printed word than everyone else.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi John:

There are some very smart thinkers who are saying the in the coming year video is going to grow like crazy on the web. We're already seeing this in some ways with YouTube and with Google now getting into the video business it could explode.

Terry Heaton's PoMo Blog comments from Tuesday cover this quite well. One of the things he points out is how the web has been built as a print/text vehicle (i.e. web "pages", banner ads, etc.).

It's really evolving to something much more... and when Katie C. streams the CBS Nightly News on the web with the TV broadcast, we'll see how that shakes things up even more -- and that adventure begins next week.

11:16 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

No doubt, there will be an explosion of audio and video on the web. I don't think that diminishes the need for good writing. It might even up the need so consumers can make better decisions about what to click in the first place.

True, the web is based on print. But the newspaper model of letting the reader scan several stories quickly and then read on when interested is a good one for the web.

As for radio, hyperlinks are the web version of the preset buttons on your radio.

On your radio, you punch the button, sample the content, and decide whether to stay. Don't like it? Punch another button.

On the web, there are way more buttons to deal with. Add good writing to the button and the user
is more likely to find something she likes once she clicks it.

And if she still doesn't like it, say 3 minutes into the CBS evening News, she will click away.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, video is important but text is key. If we're posting stories from our news and arts reporters that are nothing more than the intro we read on the air, followed by the audio cut, we're missing a huge potential market of readers who access our webpages at work and want content but can't listen to audio. We're also missing out on the search-find-discover possibilities that text makes available. Video and audio are wonderful and add a lot, but text still gets your content places where audio and video don't go.

Thanks, John!

2:40 PM  
Blogger RadioSutton said...

Couple of additional thoughts. Layout is also important. That is the same has having good formatics on the radio. I know all this sounds obvious, and that many web people are already all over this, but many station web sites are still being run by engineering staff, people with expertise in coding but not content, etc.

Also, I am reminded of the VALS research by Leslie Peters in Audience 98. Those results emphasized the importance of the printed word to the public radio audience. Finally, I remember researcher George Bailey pointing out how listeners often refer to stories they hear on-air as "articles." Good writing is important to our listeners.

9:33 AM  

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