Tendo Dev Blog

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To comment or not to comment

I’ve noticed a change in my own Web behavior.

More and more, when I finish reading something online I click on “View Comments” to see what others have to say. (I originally typed “what they have to say about the article” but I deleted it because it seems that most of the comments are about the subject of the article and not the article itself. More on this later.)

Whether I’m checking local news on SFGate.com or reading the latest industry blogs, reading comments is an increasing part of my online experience. But do they really add value?

If you can get past the misspellings and vitriol that plague many postings, there are often one or two nuggets that are good for a laugh…but I don’t know that they really illuminate the topic or make me more loyal to that particular news source. They definitely add to the “noise” that is out there on the Web.

In an article in this month’s Esquire, Chuck Klosterman offers four ways to save sports media. He suggests that networks DE-emphasize what he calls “the fan’s perspective.” In doing so, he raises a relevant issue for all of us engaged in online community building:

“It’s easy to become infatuated with working from “the fan’s perspective”: It makes it simple to come across as passionate and charming, and―for a moment―being publicly partisan seemed like a revolutionary concept. But now it’s normative, mostly uninteresting, and never useful. This is best witnessed through caller-dominated talk radio and on Web sites driven by reader comments: By dramatically increasing the amount of discourse, there’s always a decrease in its overall quality.”

As Klosterman suggests, democratizing your website via public comments may have once seemed like a revolutionary concept, but that doesn’t mean that it adds value to either your company or your website visitors.

Some suggest that comment functionality is the “gateway drug” to blogging–allowing people to dip their toe into the blogosphere. But does it add value to your site?

Before you add commenting capability to your own site, it’s worth asking the question: is it useful? Does “increasing the amount of discourse” get you closer to your business objectives?

Another quick note: The comments feature is almost never an effective tool to measure the value of the original content. As I mentioned above, comments tend to be about the subject and not the content presentation.

In other words, you can post content about Britney Spears and generate a lot of comments, but what does that have to do with your business? Would you deem that piece of content more valuable because it generated comments if that increased dialogue never led to a sale? ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content | 2 Comments

Thinking about using Flash in your email newsletters?

Well, don’t.

The good folks at campaignmonitor.com have done extensive testing on how Flash renders in all the major email clients. The results were not pretty. —Ian Miller, managing editor

September 19, 2007 Posted by | Email Marketing, Ian Miller | Leave a comment

NY Times abandons TimesSelect

A few years ago I moved into a new apartment building and quickly learned about the kindness of strangers—one of my new neighbors was snagging my newspaper about once a week. After a few unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem and/or embarrass the thief, I gave up and canceled my subscription. I decided that it was easier and cheaper to read the New York Times online.

So when in 2005 the Times introduced its TimesSelect feature, which cost about $50 a year for non-subscribers, I was bummed. Certain articles, including op-ed columns by Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and others, were deemed “Select.” Translation: pay to read the juicy stuff. I missed reading the good editorials, but I never seriously considered paying for TimesSelect. And while 227,000 online-only paying customers apparently didn’t mind, the TimesSelect experiment is officially over as of midnight tonight. Score one for the democratization of the Web.

According to the Times, the online landscape has changed (it took them two years to figure this out?). “Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources,” says the Times in a letter to readers. “In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion—as well as share it, link to it and comment on it.”

Also worth mentioning: Online advertising is on the rise, so the paper has found other ways to cash in on the Web.

But whatever the reasons, I’m a big supporter of the shift to openness and greater accessibility for all on the Web. Here’s hoping the Wall Street Journal soon follows suit. —Julie Jares, managing editor

September 18, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, Julie Jares, Web Content | Leave a comment

Check out what we’re reading

We’ve updated our blog favorites list! See the results in the lower right sidebar. A few of the oldies were goodies enough to keep around, but we’ve also added a lot of fresh voices. To read a brief description of each item, let your mouse icon linger on the name and a label will appear.

It’s always helpful to know what our peers are thinking and saying. Brand Autopsy and the 1-to-1 Blog help keep those branding and marketing ideas churning in our heads. EContent and WebGuild help to maintain our digital technology radars. CopyBlogger and Read/Write Web help keep our writing pencils sharp.

Other blogs are just fun to read. It’s always entertaining to see what dust Jeff Jarvis is kicking up on BuzzMachine or to exercise our creativity muscles on Creative Think.

So, cheers to the mavens and experts out there, taking the time to share their thoughts with the online community. It certainly makes for an enriching online experience and, in many cases, adds to our professional knowledge.

We hope that our Tendo blog provides our readers with some of the benefits that other bloggers give us. So how are we doing? Is there something you’d like to hear about that we haven’t yet discussed? Post a comment and let us know. ―Selena Welz, associate managing editor

September 11, 2007 Posted by | Selena Welz, Target Audience, Web Content | Leave a comment

Adblock: blessing, curse, or both?

Adblock Plus is a Firefox add-on that blocks the vast majority of online advertisements. For Firefox users (including this reporter), Adblock is a tremendous boon. By simply installing the add-on and subscribing to an ad-tracking service, Adblock will spare you from more than 95 percent of all online ads — including Google text ads. (Noam Cohen of the New York Times wrote yesterday about the implications of Adblock for Google, as well as Google’s unwillingness to comment on ad-blocking technology.)

As Cohen points out, Adblock’s penetration is very low — its creator estimates there are 2.5 million users around the world — but it has all the makings of a killer app. It’s free, easy to install and use, and puts the user back in control. It’s too early to start calling Adblock the online TiVo, but it’s certainly conceivable that Adblock and its descendants could rewrite the rules of online advertising.

Some advertisers are up in arms, of course, going so far as to block Firefox users from their site, claiming that using Adblock amounts to theft. (Their argument, while preposterous-sounding, may have legal basis.) Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Because a small percentage of Firefox users may be running Adblock, they’re cutting themselves off from 34.5 percent of the Internet!

And apart from being bad at math, these same advertisers are bad at the Internet. Google has shown us time and again that you succeed by giving the users what they want: unobtrusive, contextual ads; fancy maps we can mash up and improve upon; threaded, searchable email; and any of the dozens of other innovations Google has come up with.

Following Google’s lead is never a bad idea. So spend some time on your site today, and make sure you’re giving your users what they want. —Ian Miller, managing editor

September 4, 2007 Posted by | Ian Miller, Web Content | 2 Comments