January 25th, 2006
I’ve made the point many times that the bloggerati and Web 2.0 fan club are complete outliers when it comes to media consumption habits. To illustrate this point, I conducted a little informal survey, taking aim at the latest hype over News 2.0. The survey was partly inspired by Om Malik’s quip that “News 2.0 doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean anything,” and Peter Cashmore’s observation that “weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to see a massive crossover between their offerings.”
My theory is that none of these features that Paul Montgomery at Tinfinger so painstakingly charted actually matter at all to the average person. My research is admittedly biased and only n=1: my mother is the only respondent. But I’m willing to bet all my News 2.0 stock that if you try this with your mother you’re likely to get similar results.
I asked my mother to try all of the News 2.0 apps on Paul’s list (Associated Content, Backfence, Bayosphere, Digg,Findory, Gather.com, Google News, Inform.com, Memeorandum, MSN Newsbot, Newsvine, Pegasus News, Reddit, TailRank, Topix.net, Tinfinger) and pick the one that she personally would want to use on a regular basis. (I gave her my login for the Newsvine beta.)
As background, my mother is a Baby Boomer who has been a technology project management consultant for 20 years, so she’s not shy about technology and she’s not shy about media. She’s been online since the days of Prodigy and is probably more tech-savvy than most people’s mothers.
So can you guess whose News 2.0 application she choose? That’s right — Microsoft. Here’s what she said (verbatim):
MSN Newsbot suited me the best. I don’t think it was that strong on the features in the chart, but those are not features that I am that attracted to at the moment. Maybe as I understand more about all this new technology my choice will change.
I did like Bayosphere, but I think that was more from the clarity of the writing. Also, the site is simple and easy to follow.
I had a problem with the design of most of the web pages. The content may be good, but I don’t know where to focus. There is so much going on my eyes glaze over.
I would not be interested in news that was sent to me based on what I clicked on. I often just read the teaser, and if I have more time or have not already read it in the newspaper or a magazine, I might click.
I still like the “trusted” old media editors organizing the news for me. I listen to alternative news sources and get input from [your father] who reads everything on the Net and is very well informed. I look to places like Huffington Post, Alternet, and Salon for in-depth coverage of things. People’s opinions are interesting, but I was raised with authority, and although I know it can’t be trusted anymore, it is a hard habit for me to break. So I am drawn to read things written by writers — people who are paid to communicate.
Go ahead and argue that she’s not representative, or that she’ll learn to like it, or that only the younger generation matters. (Hello! Business model! The Boomers have all the money and will for many years to come.) But ask yourself this — am I just rationalizing?
How many AJAX developers do you think have ever done user focus groups with average people to figure out what their needs actually are?
So keep drinking that Koolaid — but your mother still thinks it’s bad for you.