Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
8/11/2005
06:29 PM
Patricia Keefe
Patricia Keefe
Commentary
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What The Polls Say We're Doing On Online

A few weeks ago, we asked for your input on whether we should change the delivery timing of this newsletter. Over 1,000 of you were good enough to respond (1,043), and as promised - here are the results: Same time as now: 4 a.m. Eastern time-- 66% . Noon Eastern time is OK-- 18%. Don't care-- 16%.

A few weeks ago, we asked for your input on whether we should change the delivery timing of this newsletter. Over 1,000 of you were good enough to respond (1,043), and as promised - here are the results:

Same time as now: 4 a.m. Eastern time-- 66% . Noon Eastern time is OK-- 18%. Don't care-- 16%.In keeping with your preferences, we will not change the delivery time of the newsletter. Thank you for pointing us in the right direction!

Some of you wrote in with an interesting suggestion: Keep the current newsletter delivery time, but offer an afternoon update. We like that idea, but we don't want to spam anyone. So we are considering working that option into a new service we hope to debut shortly--a customized news alert that enables you to pick the topic, day, and timing of when you'd like to receive news updates. We will have more details soon.

Speaking of surveys, two this week caught my eye. First there was the one from Accountemps that claims the average employee surfs an hour a day--technically, 56 minutes--which is about 50% less than the findings of an earlier survey from AOL and Salary.com that claimed employees were goofing off in cyberspace up to two hours per day. An hour a day seems more realistic to me. My complete take on this issue was covered in a previous post on the Salary.com survey.

The second survey, from comScore Networks Inc., posits that blogs have become so popular that they now rival mainstream media publications in influence and reach. I read blogs, I contribute to a blog, and I know people who do both and run their own separate blogs. I even know blog fanatics. But the conclusions drawn by the authors of this survey seem a little too enthusiastic to me.

For one thing, before we get too excited about the term "blog," consider that many blogs essentially function as updated chat rooms and discussion forums--neither of which are new, and neither of which have brought the mainstream media to their newsy knees. Along with the dedicated participants come the nut jobs; off-subject, rude and profane commentary; and the ever-with-us spam. Many blogs are not policed, and viewers seeking serious or polite discussions won't stay long if they have to step over garbage postings.

Bloggers, generally speaking, are not journalists. (Which I realize is the draw for some viewers.) And many blogs are either topic-specific (say the diary of a new mom, or one with a focus on Red Sox Nation) or offer a specific point of view, be it conservative or liberal. So while you may think CNN or Fox News has a specific bias, when something major happens, we still check their sites seeking comprehensive or at least basic coverage, even if we also check our favorite news-oriented blog, which may or may not be affiliated with those sites, BTW. Take Arianna Huffington's blog, which is prominently promo'd on the Yahoo home news page. (No, I don't read her blog, but I check Yahoo news regularly, and it is always there off to the side). Even formal news sites have blogs--just like this one.

I think it would be more interesting to know how big the committed core of the average blog is, how often loyal readers participate in the conversation, and how often they visit blogs. Like anything, blogs require a commitment in time--from the owners and the audience. And in this information- and data-delivering, gadget-overloaded age, time is a very precious commodity. Even deep interest in a topic might not keep you coming back, never mind seeking out kindred spirits or deeper discussion on a news event in the first place. Just because you really can't spare the time.

As noted by Rick Bruner, co-author of the report and director of research at DoubleClick Inc., I think it's more likely that some blogs, probably those espousing a particular view of the world as opposed to focusing on a specific topic, will come to complement the coverage people get from traditional news sources. And not just because I work for one. I'm like everyone else. I need a basic starting point or two to alert me to what's going on in the world, and for that I turn to traditional news media. If I want to explore a particular point of view, or read more of a partisan angle on that news, I'll seek out blogs or sites that cater to that view. But I don't always have that luxury. The latter options are rarely going to be where I start in terms of orienting myself to what's happening outside my doorstep. I just think most people still want to scan the buffet before diving in and making their selections. What do you say? Am I out of touch? How much time do you spend on blogs? Where do you go to get your news? Does traditional news gathering and presentation still have value?

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