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Readers want information the way they want it. This is news to some

Submitted by on Friday, 5 February 2010 No Comment

If publishers think I’m impatient, wait until the guys throw themselves fully into the Net.

I’ve only been tapping my foot in front of the microwave for 30 years. My kids have been doing it since they were old enough to stand.

And if I, who didn’t learn that 30 seconds is forEVER until late in my teens, have no time for Web sites that jerk readers around, how long will the grown-up guys put up with this nonsense.

The most recent case study: NASCAR’s Web site.

Late last season, NASCAR’s RSS feed included a decent amount of detail – enough to get me interested, enough to convince me to sometimes click through to the site to read the rest:

Ryan Newman admitted he was physically sore after a wild end-over-end backflip down Talladega Superspeedway’s backstretch in the closing laps of Sunday’s Amp Energy 500. But he was just as sore about several other issues, including the propensity of the current chassis design to become airborne, the decision to eliminate bump-drafting in the turns and the overall quality of the racing product.”

Of late, though, there’s been an epidemic of vague headlines – First practice of season ends with multi-car wreck – followed by a sentence fragment telling me to go to the full story for details.

Say what? I don’t want to go to the full story – that’s why I subscribed to your RSS feed.

Now, if  you had told me that Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin were involved in the crash, I might have clicked through to the story. I follow Hamlin on Twitter and Martin warms my cold, stony heart because he’s the only regular driver older than I am.

But, then, I might not have. Because I’m so impatient that I tap my foot in from of the microwave after 30 seconds and because I could have read several other stories on RSS in the time it took me to move along to your site and get reoriented on something I’d been reading before your silly system interrupted me. Do theaters make the audience change screens mid-movie?

Here’s my dirty little secret that explains why many sites hates people like me. If I really, really like your stuff, I seldom go to your site. I use that magic little orange button that you put on your pages because someone told you you needed to. That button tells my computer to run out and fetch the stories for me. I really like it when that button fetches me the full story. I’m much more likely to read the whole thing when that happens.

It’s not that I never go to your site. I’ll visit if your story inspires, outrages or amuses me enough that I want to comment on it. And I’ll click through if I loved your work enough that I want to let my friends on Twitter and Facebook know about it.

I’m sure that behavior vexes you, because you lose the valuable “unique visitor” and “page view” counts when I read on RSS. Ironic, isn’t it, since I’m actually a more engaged reader than the ones who flit across your site occasionally. I made the effort to subscribe. I made the commitment to make you a regular habit.

But because you either haven’t figured out that you can sell ads on your RSS feed – or you have but you’re still banging your head against the wall trying to get  your sales team to get it – you insist on trying to force me onto your site.

It rarely will work. And if it rarely works with me, think of how seldom it will work with my kids. They think 15 seconds is too long at the microwave.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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