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Building More Effective “Contact Us” Pages

An open,
efficient line of communication is beneficial to customers and the
bottom line. Yet judging by many “contact us” pages, you’d never think
this is the case. Much like “about us” pages, many “contact us” pages seem like throwaways. They receive little love and even less effort.

This is easily remedied with a little thought and some planning.

Common “Contact Us” Mistakes and Solutions

Problem: Prospects don’t know whom they should contact.
Many companies do a great job of listing all the different contact
numbers, contact info, and corresponding departments but offer very
little guidance on which contact option is the best, or even correct,
choice.

The Citi page
lists the contact info above the fold, but whom should I call if I have
a question about the credit card application I just submitted online?
Do I contact the credit card contact number, the account contact
number, or the online contact number?

American Airlines gives it a good try, but this pop-up
is just too frustrating to be useful. It isn’t obvious that clicking on
the left-hand link will give you actual contact information. You must
first read the incredibly small text to figure it out. If I just booked
my vacation and bought the tickets from American, whom do I contact to
change my flight? Do I click “AA Vacations”? “Customer Relations”?
“Reservations”?

Solution: Wells Fargo does a much better job putting contact information in the context of visitor need rather than a list of information.

Problem: Contact information is invisible or hard to find. How far we have strayed from service when people look at the GetHuman Earcon Standard as a potential benefit?

Controlling
call center costs is an important metric for many larger companies, but
the answer isn’t to hide contact information. While doing so may
eliminate many knucklehead calls, it also leaves you vulnerable to
frustrated and angry customers. This can waste even more time when they
do hunt you down.
It also robs you of an opportunity to win over customers by being more
approachable. It’s hard to trust a company that doesn’t seem to want to
talk to you.

Nobody hides its contact information as well as Amazon.com. On the upside, it does work hard to present information that’s likely to answer most common questions.

Solution:
If you’re pressed to cut call center calls, the answer lies in planning
a site that answers the majority of questions. Persuasion architecture
can also be used to plan persuasion scenarios
where support or customer service questions are answered online.
Conversion rate optimization is not simply for transactions or leads;
it can also be used post-sale in customer relationship situations where
a conversion can be measured as a successful resolution.

Vonage attempts this. Its “contact us” page is a little thin and discouraging, but at minimum it presents the phone number as well as a troubleshooter. Even better is Outpost.com.
The copy is encouraging and inviting. It places the phone contact
information first, followed by links that address common situations in
common language.

Problem: Contact options are limited. So many companies like to force consumers to contact them the way they preferred to be contacted. Some limit you to an e-mail form. Bank of America forces you to scroll through a painful dropdown menu. Why can’t they just offer a clickable map, like Qwest does?

Solution:
Give customers more control of how to contact you. Provide plenty of
options: phone, form, e-mail, and chat. Let them contact you their way.
RADirect
offers a telephone number to talk to an engineer, as well as a short
form and a chat option when available. The e-mail form guarantees a
response in one business day. If you click on “Speak to a System Engineer” in the nav bar, you’re guaranteed a response in two hours from the point of action.

We
worked with a business-to-business (B2B) lead-generation site that
literally did not post price and product information on its site to
force prospects to call and talk to sales reps. It also made the
contact form incredibly cumbersome. By introducing transparent pricing,
a shorter form, and more contact options, it increased its lead
pipeline over $70,000 a month. Just because you’re better at selling on
the phone doesn’t mean every customer wants to talk on the phone. He
may just surf over to a competitor that doesn’t force a call.

If
you’re concerned about losing leads and sales, use persuasion
architecture. With persuasion architecture, the most effective offline
selling processes can be mapped to online persuasion scenarios.

Problem: People are left to send and pray.
So many contact forms and “thank you for contacting us” pages leave
visitors frustrated. They don’t provide any information on what to
expect when someone contacts the company via form or e-mail. Visitors
want to know when and how you’ll reply. Some pages won’t even give the
business hours.

This is even more frustrating to a visitor who comes with a support issue.

After we sent our form to Zaaz, the landing page told us the Web is fast, but not how fast the company will get back to us. Compare that to this thank-you page, which tells you the CEO has been copied on your message and when to expect a response. Which page inspires more confidence?

Solution:
Tell visitors exactly what to expect when they reach out to you. Tell
them what’s happening and what to expect in the future. If they must
have information handy when they contact you, be sure to list that on
the “contact us” page, too.

Conclusion

The
“contact us” page is a lifeline for many businesses. For others, it’s
what a visitor should click on as a last resort because she’s failed to
find answers elsewhere on your site. Either way, take the
responsibility. Make sure visitors don’t become frustrated before they
reach out. In the end, that’s the key measure of a good “contact us”
page.

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Words

I will search for a cheap hotel but when I arrive at a website, 
I don't really want to see a big heading saying:

WELCOME TO OUR DIRT CHEAP HOTEL

I'd much prefer to see a heading such as:

A BOUTIQUE HOTEL FOR THE BUDGET-MINDED

Because, you know, I'm not cheap; I'm just budget-minded.

The words that people search with may not always be the words
they would like to read when they arrive at a webpage. Search
needs to be understood as a particular type of mental behaviour.
Once the customer arrives at a webpage, a whole new set of words
may kick in. One set of words to bring customers to your
website-another set to get them to complete a task.

Gerry McGovern
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Predictions for 2007: The elusive quest for simple

15-Jan-2007

What does this year hold for content technologies? As the
holiday season winds down and we all gear up for 2007, we offer 12 predictions
for the next 12 months.

On the whole, we expect to see more incremental changes, rather than epochal
shifts. Despite all the industry mergers, new product versions, and ceaseless
march of acronyms, the content technology industry does not in fact move very
fast.

Nevertheless, the sum of these incremental developments could have a significant
impact on your enterprise. In particular, we think 2007 will be characterized
by the “elusive quest for simple.” Microsoft, IBM, Google, and others
will continue to invest heavily in promoting their new, inexpensive collaboration,
content management, portal, and search technologies as simpler alternatives
to older, stodgier tools.

But “simple” doesn’t always come with more usable
interfaces, and fashioning applications that skeptical employees can employ
successfully will still fall largely to the implementation team (read: you).
Meanwhile, motivating, incenting, or compelling information workers to manage
content more effectively still typically means getting people to change the way
they are used to working (read: higher-risk project). Fortunately, there is an
upside: more capabilities in the hands of managers that used to reside in the
domain of technologists.

The diffusion of knowledge and technologies is indeed empowering managers in
new ways. However, as buyers’ advocates, some of our forecasts are perhaps
a bit more aspirational than predictive. So be it. Vendors shift when buyers
ask — or demand — it.

1. Google de-googles its appliance

The Google Appliance will continue to disrupt the enterprise
search market much the way Microsoft SharePoint swept inexorably into the
collaboration and portal space. Google has found strong unmet demand for
basic, relatively inexpensive search with an emphasis on Office and Web
documents, while its main competitors still search for alternate hooks. As Enterprise
Search Report
readers know, traditional search software products can do oh
so much more than Google’s appliance, but do you really need all that? Maybe
you do. Interestingly, Google has begun to add more tuning controls to its
appliance
, including, significantly, weighting — a complex but oft-useful
approach to improving results. This is perhaps a tacit admission that Google’s
traditional “our-algorithms-are-so-smart-you-don’t-need-to-tweak-them”
argument held less water with enterprise customers than first presumed. Simple
is hard, and enterprise search will remain as preternaturally hard at the end
of 2007 as it was at the beginning. Plan accordingly.

2. AJAX UI backlash

Everybody knows that content managers have endured abominable user interfaces
since the inception of automated content management tools. Many vendors are
presently working feverishly on revamped, AJAX-based interfaces they hope will,
deus ex machina, give them UIs that businesspeople actually welcome using.
Well, early results suggest that many of these slick interfaces are less than
functional and reliable. Contributors hate buggy interfaces even more than
clumsy ones. On the plus side, vendors are slowly hiring usability experts
and information architects to revamp the contributor experience — particularly
in the areas of system navigation, search, tagging, editing, and publishing.
Where things remain tricky is when you need functionality from multiple applications
in one interface, further complicating the integration problem. In any case,
fashioning usable interfaces is never simple.

3. Web managers embracing the delete key

Perhaps at the urging of U2’s
Bono,
many enterprises are beginning to conclude that it’s high time to
“Walk On” — get rid of web content they don’t need anymore.
Not all content is worth managing, and for many the timing is opportune.
More enterprises are approaching a second generation of Web CMS deployment (either
choosing a new product or finally moving off a bespoke system) and deciding
to leave obsolete content behind during the migration. This doesn’t mean that
in this new era of compliance you can throw everything away. Successful implementers
will embrace the content audit process before learning to be better off publishing
less. So “simple” will be hard at first, but worth the effort in
the long run.

4. She’s got the power: the web marketing manager ascendant

More Web CMS software vendors are embracing scenario-based selling —
most specifically, to the marketing department. And with good reason. Even
if most content technology budgets still lie in the realm of IT, the marketer
is asserting her power: she cares not whether it’s Java or .NET, commercial
or open source, she just wants useful tools for her team to target customers
effectively and begin to integrate user-generated content. To be sure, getting
businesspeople more involved in technology selection tends to make the process
take longer as end-user scenarios are demoed, tested, and analyzed. Managing
multidisciplinary selection teams is never simple, but better to invest time
choosing the right tool now if you want to obtain a decent ROI later.

5. Website simulations finally arrive

This is an extension of that last prediction. Marketing people want to know
the potential impact of the changes they propose. How will modifications affect website effectiveness if we
tweak a personalization routine? Alter the way content is tagged? Revise visitor flow
through AJAX-powered pages? Simple questions;
complicated answers. Business intelligence and business process management
tools have included modeling and simulation capabilities for some time, but
they remain largely absent from content technology products in general and Web
CMS tools in particular. Even Office 2007 comes with a new feature to preview
format changes before you make them. Understanding visitor behavior will become
increasingly important here as marketing managers ask, “What’s the likely
impact to traffic patterns if we do X?” The latest version of The CMS
Report
identified a trend towards integrating analytics and content management.
That trend will accelerate in 2007.

6. Falling seat prices

With the aggressive pricing of Microsoft and Oracle ($50 a seat or less) in
the ECM sector — along with more hosted offerings coming on-line, plus
the maturation of open source options from Alfresco and Nuxeo — the days
of the $350 seat pricing are drawing to a close. There are simply too many lower-priced
options available these days for there not to be pressure on the high end of
the market. To be sure, the specialist “power user” seats will remain
pricey, and even Alfresco’s commercial support prices are far from cheap. But
the idea of charging hundreds of dollars for regular (occasionally check docs
in and out) users is no longer tenable. Canny buyers will recognize that ECM
is a fancy acronym for old fashioned document management and press ECM vendors
to bring prices down, or take a walk. This much at least is simple: buyers in
2007 will remain firmly in the driving seat.

7. Taking a second look at your repository

If your business-critical content is sitting in a proprietary repository you
might be wondering in 2007 whether this remains a smart move. With the major
infrastructure players now driving into ECM, and specialists vendors like Open
Text
claiming loudly that they will in future build on top of common database
repository platforms, it might be time for a renegotiation with your vendor
of choice (if they haven’t already been acquired!). The days of getting
locked into a proprietary repository — with specialist skill sets required
to access, maintain, and administer it — are numbered. If the upheaval
to move content out of the niche repository into a more broadly supported platform
environment is onerous, then maybe 2007 will be the year to look for a new supplier.

8. Rediscovery of workflow

Mid- and large-sized enterprises have all gone through significant restructuring
over the past few years; outsourcing and increased automation combined with
an increasing reluctance of employees to commit careers to one employer have
combined to shake corporations significantly. Those considering compliance,
document, email, or content management solutions to resolve the issue of lost
and irrelevant information are coming quickly to the conclusion that processes
need to be defined and then enforced. Combine this with a reawakening of BPR
(business process re-engineering) methods and we can see workflow tools (often
branded as business process management) coming back into vogue in a big way.
Whether they will prove to be any more successful this time around remains to
be seen — but it’s time to dust off your process modeling skills and map
those content-oriented activities.

9. Portal platforms will diversify

A genuine interest in portals by both senior business management as well as
the giant software vendors will further push portals up on enterprise technology
agendas. We still won’t see “one ring to rule them all” über-products,
but rather, more vendors will offer multiple different portal platforms to fit
enterprise requirements. While enterprise portals will not replace Web CMS
tools in 2007, they will increasingly be seen as platforms for publishing content
outside the firewall as well as inside, even though (as the new SharePoint experience
suggests), this transition may not be smooth.

10. Portal dashboards meet standards.

As organizations increasingly realize that the enterprise portal dashboard
concept
is holding back usability progress (and therefore business success),
alternatives will emerge, if only slowly. Some portals will become more decidedly
single-purpose (e.g. collaboration), while others will become multi-purpose
(e.g. e-business and enterprise integration). Either way, buyers will still
have to customize the portals themselves, but it is well worth it, as productivity
goes up and frustration goes down. As always, UI designers will find succor
in basic web guidelines that co-incidentally can solve common accessibility
problems. The new portlet specification, JSR-286, could help reduce some of
the interface work required towards the end of year, but its deepest impact
will likely come later, after broader adoption.

11. Long live (lightweight) SOA

Much of what is offered by portal vendor Web Services APIs
is nothing new. The same goes for mash-ups, which have been really around as a
concept since frames and iframes were introduced in the mid-90s. Whereas
Services-Oriented Architectures (SOAs) have been mainly pushed by vendors
through complex solutions, mash-ups are much easier and quite popular among
buyers. Intra-enterprise mash-ups will become socially accepted in 2007 as a simpler
option for solving content integration challenges, reducing some project
implementation times.

12. You will need to explain Text Mining

Sometimes called “text analytics,” the text mining industry is presently
comprised of a collection of little-known tools that attempt in different ways
to glean the same kind of intelligence from unstructured information that data
mining packages yield from structured data. Business intelligence (BI) vendors
have been among those taking note, partnering with text mining suppliers as
customers increasingly look to mine text as well as data. Given the plethora
of methodologies here — from linguistics and semantic approaches to statistical
and spatial analysis — most text-mining tools still work for very limited-use
cases. But one of them could be your use case. Be sure to prototype
carefully before you buy, because this software typically needs a ton of “training”
to show effective results, but your first trick will be to give your CFO a simple
explanation of what the technology actually does.

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Speech by Rupert Murdoch to the American Society of Newspaper Editors

But as I stand before this esteemed group of editors today,
I’m reminded of something Mark Twain once wrote to a friend:

“How often we recall, with regret, that napoleon once shot
at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a
publisher……. But we remember with charity, that his
intentions were good.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today with the best
of intentions. My subject is one near and dear to all of us:
the role of newspapers in this digital age.

Scarcely a day goes by without some claim that new
technologies are fast writing newsprint’s obituary. Yet, as
an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably
complacent. Certainly, I didn’t do as much as I should have
after all the excitement of the late 1990’s. I suspect many
of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping that this
thing called the digital revolution would just limp along.

Well it hasn’t … it won’t …. And it’s a fast developing
reality we should grasp as a huge opportunity to improve our
journalism and expand our reach.

I come to this discussion not as an expert with all the
answers, but as someone searching for answers to an emerging
medium that is not my native language. Like many of you in
this room, I’m a digital immigrant. I wasn’t weaned on the
web, nor coddled on a computer. Instead, I grew up in a
highly centralized world where news and information were
tightly controlled by a few editors, who deemed to tell us
what we could and should know. My two young daughters, on
the other hand, will be digital natives. They’ll never know
a world without ubiquitous broadband internet access.

The peculiar challenge then, is for us digital immigrants –
many of whom are in positions to determine how news is
assembled and disseminated — to apply a digital mindset to
a new set of challenges.

We need to realize that the next generation of people
accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or
any other source, have a different set of expectations about
the kind of news they will get, including when and how they
will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will
get it from.

Anyone who doubts this should read a recent report by the
Carnegie Corporation about young people’s changing habits of
news consumption and what they mean for the future of the
news industry.

According to this report, and I quote, “There’s a dramatic
revolution taking place in the news business today, and it
isn’t about TV anchor changes, scandals at storied
newspapers or embedded reporters.” The future course of
news, says the study’s author, Merrill Brown, is being
altered by technology-savvy young people no longer wedded to
traditional news outlets or even accessing news in
traditional ways.

Instead, as the study illustrates, consumers between the
ages of 18-34 are increasingly using the web as their medium
of choice for news consumption. While local TV news remains
the most accessed source of news, the internet, and more
specifically, internet portals, are quickly becoming the
favored destination for news among young consumers.

44 percent of the study’s respondents said they use a portal
at least once a day for news, as compared to just 19 percent
who use a printed newspaper on a daily basis. More
ominously, looking out three years, the study found that 39
percent expected to use the internet more to learn about the
news, versus only 8 percent who expected to use traditional
newspapers more.

And their attitudes towards newspapers are especially
alarming. Only 9 percent describe us as trustworthy, a scant
8 percent find us useful, and only 4 percent of respondents
think we’re entertaining. Among major news sources, our
beloved newspaper is the least likely to be the preferred
choice for local, national or international news going
forward.

What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way
young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on
the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They
don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell
them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a
bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as
gospel.

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for
them.

They want control over their media, instead of being
controlled by it.

They want to question, to probe, to offer a different angle.
Think about how blogs and message boards revealed that
Kryptonite bicycle locks were vulnerable to a Bic pen. Or
the Swiftboat incident. Or the swift departure of Dan Rather
from CBS. One commentator, Jeff Jarvis, puts it this way:
give the people control of media, they will use it. Don’t
give people control of media, and you will lose them.

In the face of this revolution, however, we’ve been slow to
react. We’ve sat by and watched while our newspapers have
gradually lost circulation. We all know of great and
expensive exceptions to this – but the technology is now
moving much faster than in the past.

Where four out of every five americans in 1964 read a paper
every day, today, only half do. Among just younger readers,
the numbers are even worse, as I’ve just shown.

One writer, Philip Meyer, has even suggested in his book The
Vanishing Newspaper that looking at today’s declining
newspaper readership – and continuing that line, the last
reader recycles the last printed paper in 2040 – April,
2040, to be exact.

There are a number of reasons for our inertia in the face of
this advance. First, newspapers as a medium for centuries
enjoyed a virtual information monopoly – roughly from the
birth of the printing press to the rise of radio. We never
had a reason to second-guess what we were doing. Second,
even after the advent of television, a slow but steady
decline in readership was masked by population growth that
kept circulations reasonably intact. Third, even after
absolute circulations started to decline in the 1990s,
profitability did not.

But those days are gone. The trends are against us. Fast
search engines and targeted advertising as well as
editorial, all increase the electronic attractions by a
factor of 3 or 4. And at least four billion dollars a year
is going into R&D to further improve this process.

So unless we awaken to these changes, which are quite
different to those of 5 or 6 years ago, we will, as an
industry, be relegated to the status of also-rans. But,
properly done, they are an opportunity to actually improve
our journalism and expand our reach.

For those who are confronting this new reality, we tend to
focus on the technological challenge, which is
understandable, since it is one we believe – or hope – that
we can do something about.

Thinking back to the challenge that television posed to the
newspaper business, we can see some similarities. A new
technology comes along, and like many new things, it is
somewhat exciting at first, simply by virtue of being new.
Like the advent of radio before it, television was always
going to be at best an alternative way to get the news, and
at worst a direct competitor. There was no way to make it a
part, or even a partner, of the paper.

That is manifestly not true of the internet. And all of our
papers are living proof. I venture to say that not one
newspaper represented in this room lacks a website. Yet how
many of us can honestly say that we are taking maximum
advantage of those websites to serve our readers, to
strengthen our businesses, or to meet head-on what readers
increasingly say is important to them in receiving their
news?

Despite this, I’m still confident of our future, both in
print and via electronic delivery platforms. The data may
show that young people aren’t reading newspapers as much as
their predecessors, but it doesn’t show they don’t want
news. In fact, they want a lot of news, just faster news of
a different kind and delivered in a different way.

And we in this room – newspaper editors and journalists –
are uniquely positioned to deliver that news. We have the
experience, the brands, the resources, and the know-how to
get it done. We have unique content to differentiate
ourselves in a world where news is becoming increasingly
commoditized. And most importantly, we have a great new
partner to help us reach this new consumer — the internet.

The challenge, however, is to deliver that news in ways
consumers want to receive it. Before we can apply our
competitive advantages, we have to free our minds of our
prejudices and predispositions, and start thinking like our
newest consumers. In short, we have to answer this
fundamental question: what do we – a bunch of digital
immigrants — need to do to be relevant to the digital
natives?

Probably, just watch our teenage kids.

What do they want to know, and where will they go to get it?

They want news on demand, continuously updated. They want a
point of view about not just what happened, but why it
happened.

They want news that speaks to them personally, that affects
their lives. They don’t just want to know how events in the
Mid-east will affect the presidential election; they want to
know what it will mean at the gas-pump. They don’t just want
to know about terrorism, but what it means about the safety
of their subway line, or whether they’ll be sent to Iraq.
And they want the option to go out and get more information,
or to seek a contrary point of view.

And finally, they want to be able to use the information in
a larger community – to talk about, to debate, to question,
and even to meet the people who think about the world in
similar or different ways.

Our print versions can obviously satisfy many of these
needs, and we at news corporation will continue to invest in
our printed papers so they remain an important part of our
reader’s daily lives. But our internet versions can do even
more, especially in providing virtual communities for our
readers to be linked to other sources of information, other
opinions, other like-minded people.

And to do that, we must challenge – and reformulate — the
conventions that so far have driven our online efforts.

At News Corporation, we have a history of challenging media
orthodoxies. Nearly twenty years ago, we created a fourth
broadcast network. What was behind that creation was a
fundamental questioning of the way people got their nightly
entertainment to that point. We weren’t constrained by the
news at six, primetime at eight, news again at 11 paradigm.
We weren’t constrained by the belief that entertainment had
to be geared to a particular audience, or reflect a certain
mind-set.

Instead, we shortened the primetime block to two hours,
pushed up the news by an hour, and programmed the network to
a younger-skewing audience. The result was the FOX Broadcast
Network, today America’s number one network among 18-49
year-olds.

Similarly, we sensed ten years ago that people watching
television news felt alienated by the monolithic
presentation of the news they were getting from the nightly
news broadcasts or cable networks. We sensed that there was
another way we could deliver that news – objectively,
fairly, and faster-paced. And the result was the fox news
channel, today America’s number one cable news network.

And most recently, at the The Times of London, circulation
decline was immediately reversed when we moved from a
broadsheet to what we call our “compact” edition. For nearly
a year, we offered readers both versions: same newspaper,
same stories, just different sizes. And they overwhelmingly
chose the compact version as more convenient. This is an
example of us listening to what our readers want, and then
upsetting a centuries old tradition to give them exactly
what they were asking for. And we did it all without
compromising the quality of our product.

In this spirit, we’re now turning to the internet. Today,
the newspaper is just a paper. Tomorrow, it can be a
destination.

Today, to the extent anyone is a destination, it’s the
internet portals: the Yahoos, Googles, and MSNs. I just saw
a report that showed Google News’s traffic increased 90
percent over the past year while the New York Times’
excellent website traffic decreased 23 percent. The
challenge for us – for each of us in this room – is to
create an internet presence that is compelling enough for
users to make us their home page. Just as people
traditionally started their day with coffee and the
newspaper, in the future, our hope should be that for those
who start their day online, it will be with coffee and our
website.

To do this, though, we have to refashion what our web
presence is. It can’t just be what it too often is today: a
bland repurposing of our print content. Instead, it will
need to offer compelling and relevant content. Deep, deep
local news. Relevant national and international news.
Commentary and debate. Gossip and humor.

Some newspapers will invest sufficient resources to
continuously update the news, because digital natives don’t
just check the news in the morning – they check it
throughout the day. If my child played a little league
baseball game in the morning, it would be great to be able
to access the paper’s website in the afternoon to get a
summary of her game, maybe even accompanied by video
highlights.

But our internet site will have to do still more to be
competitive. For some, it may have to become the place for
conversation. The digital native doesn’t send a letter to
the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We
need to be the destination for those bloggers. We need to
encourage readers to think of the web as the place to go to
engage our reporters and editors in more extended
discussions about the way a particular story was reported or
researched or presented.

At the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept
of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news
on the net. There are of course inherent risks in this
strategy — chief among them maintaining our standards for
accuracy and reliability. Plainly, we can’t vouch for the
quality of people who aren’t regularly employed by us – and
bloggers could only add to the work done by our reporters,
not replace them. But they may still serve a valuable
purpose; broadening our coverage of the news; giving us new
and fresh perspectives to issues; deepening our relationship
to the communities we serve, so long as our readers
understand the clear distinction between bloggers and our
journalists.

To carry this one step further, some digital natives do even
more than blog with text – they are blogging with audio,
specifically through the rise of podcasting – and to remain
fully competitive, some may want to consider providing a
place for that as well.

And with the growing proliferation of broadband, the
emphasis online is shifting from text only to text with
video. The future is soon upon us in this regard. Google and
Yahoo already are testing video search while other
established cable brands, including FOX News, are
accompanying their text news stories with video clips.

What this means for us as newspapers is the opportunity to
partner with credible video programmers to provide an
infinitely better product. More access to news; more
visually entertaining news and advertising product; deeper
and more penetrating coverage.

At News Corporation, where we’re both a video programmer as
well as a newspaper publisher, the rewards of getting this
right are enormous. We’ve spent billions of dollars
developing unique sports, news and general entertainment
programming. We have a library as rich as anyone in this
world. Our job now is to bring this content profitably into
the broadband world – to marry our video to our publishing
assets, and to garner our fair share – hopefully more than
our fair share — of the advertising dollars that will come
from successfully converging these media.

Someone whom I respect a great deal, Bill Gates, said
recently that the internet would attract $30 billion in
advertising revenue annually within the next three years. To
give you some perspective, this would equal the entire
advertising revenue currently generated each year by the
newspaper industry as a whole. Of course, all of this could
not be new money. Whether Bill’s math is right is almost
beside the point. What is indisputable is the fact that more
and more advertising dollars are going on-line, and we must
be in a position to capture our fair share.

The threat of losing print advertising dollars to online
media is very real. In fact, it’s already happening,
particularly in classifieds. No one in this room is
oblivious to it. Television and radio and the yellow pages
are in the same spot.

In the same way we need to be relevant to our readers, the
internet provides the opportunity for us to be more relevant
to our advertisers. Plainly, the internet allows us to be
more granular in our advertising, targeting potential
consumers based on where they’ve surfed and what products
they’ve bought. The ability to more precisely target
customers using technology- powered forms of advertising
represents a great opportunity for us to maintain and even
grow market share and is clearly the future of advertising.

And the history of our industry shows that we can do this.
Technology has traditionally been an asset to the newspaper
business. It has in the past allowed us to improve our
printing, helped us collect and transmit the news faster and
cheaper – as well as reach people we never could reach
before. So of all the trials that face newspapers in the
21st century, I fear technology – and our response to it –
is by no means our only challenge.

What I worry about much more is our ability to make the
necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands. As I
said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation
of the way we think about our product. Unfortunately,
however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are
out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we
ask is “Do we have the story? rather than “Does anyone want
the story?”

And the data support this unpleasant truth. Studies show
we’re in an odd position: we’re more trusted by the people
who aren’t reading us. And when you ask journalists what
they think about their readers, the picture grows darker.
According to one recent study, the percentage of national
journalists who have a great deal of confidence in the
ability of the American public to make good decisions has
declined by more than 20 points since 1999. Perhaps this
reflects their personal politics and personal prejudices
more than anything else, but it is disturbing.

This is a polite way of saying that reporters and editors
think their readers are stupid. In any business, such an
attitude toward one’s customers would not be healthy. But in
the newspaper business, where we rely on people to come back
to us each day, it will be disastrous if not addressed.

As one study said: “Even if the economics of journalism work
themselves out, how can journalists work on behalf of a
public they are coming to see as less wise and less able?”

I’d put it more dramatically: newspapers whose employees
look down on their readers can have no hope of ever
succeeding as a business.

But by meeting the challenges I’ve raised, I’m confident we
will not only improve our chances for success in the online
world, but as importantly, improve our actual printed
newspapers.

Success in the online world will, I think, beget greater
success in the printed medium. By streamlining our
operations and becoming more nimble. By changing the way we
write and edit stories. By listening more intently to our
readers.

I do not underestimate the tests before us. We may never
become true digital natives, but we can and must begin to
assimilate to their culture and way of thinking. It is a
monumental, once-in-a-generation opportunity, but it is also
an exciting one, because if we’re successful, our industry
has the potential to reshape itself, and to be healthier
than ever before.

Categories
Learn

How the web is affecting journalism

http://www.robinsloan.com/epic/

http://www.cyberjournalist.net/online_news_and_convergence_tips/

like this

http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/003714.php

============
Here are two tip sheets from a session at the annual conference of
the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on “Technology: A User’s
Guide to Software, Hardware and Other Tools Revolutionizing Journalism”:

From Jeff South
From Amy Gahran

============

And this

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/06-1NRspring/p53-0601-riley.html

“What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way
young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on
the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They
don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell
them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a
bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as
gospel. ”  Rupert Murdoch
http://www.newscorp.com/news/news_247.html

 A ‘Box’ that will transform media http://www.ft.com/cms/s/8cde5246-0aba-11db-b595-0000779e2340.html

Adapt or Die – American Journalism Review
http://ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4111

Ultimate Guide to Online Video
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70767-0.html

“…the notion of mass media is fast becoming an oxymoron.” (Alan Moore)

” [Over the next 10 years audiences will move away from the linear,
scheduled world where relatively limited number of distributors who
push their content at the viewer….] “we will instead enter a world
where content is increasingly delivered through internet- protocol-
based networks that are non-linear, on-demand and entirely
self-scheduled. In that world, the viewer – not the broadcaster – will
decide what is consumed and how.”
Lord Currie, Royal Television Society Fleming Memorial Lecture, 2004

Merrill Brown, author of a Carnegie Corporation of New York report on
media consumption says, “The future course of news is being altered by
technology-savvy young people no longer wedded to traditional news
outlets or even accessing news in traditional ways.”

“77% of Americans seek their primary news today online.”

“Jonathan Schwartz COO of Sun Microsystems believes that the 1000
bloggers at Sun have done more for his company than a billion $ ad
campaign ever could.”

“With the ease of access to programming that computers now have,
younger viewers in particular (a commercially very attractive group)
may become increasingly infrequent television users. There is for
example, already evidence that television has lost young male viewers
to computers.”
John Ranelagh, Founding Commissioning Editor Channel 4 Television

“The biggest story on Thursday was Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia
that Internet users around the world freely add to and edit.
Yesterday’s entry on the London bombings was amended, edited and
updated by hundreds of readers no fewer than 2,800 times throughout the
day. The entry has photographs, detailed timelines, contact numbers, a
complete translated statement by the jihadist group claiming
responsibility for the attacks and links to other Wikipedia entries.”
Newsweek (July 9,2005)

Jeff Jarvis’s 1st law:
“Give us control and we will use it. Don’t and you will lose us.”

The end of TV as we know it: A future industry perspective (IBM Institute for Business Value study)
http://www-1.ibm.com/services/us/index.wss/ibvstudy/imc/a1023172?cntxt=a1000062

-- 
Ste Drayton
Manager: WWF Global Web Site

::: www.panda.org :::

WWF International, 1196 Gland, Switzerland

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