26 July 2005

Dead tree bloggers start to understand


Slowly but surely, newspapers and online portals are beginning to change the way they work with the Web. They're beginning to understand that the important thing about it is not keeping people on their site, it's getting people to return to their site.

A good example of the former is About.com, which puts a branded frame around every link you follow from that site. Sure, there's a "Remove frame" button, but I find it all so annoying that I will only go to About.com as a last resort.

It's understandable why newspapers originally wanted to be your one and only site on the Web; the metaphor they're working from is the printed newspaper. In that world, customers typically buy only one of the local papers. So when the papers went online, they wanted to make sure that people "bought" their site.

The problem is, the Web works best as, well, a web. It's much more like the front porch of the general store in a small Texas town, where several people sit and discuss whatever they feel like. You can sit and listen, join in, and choose who to believe. If you want people to listen to you in that environment, you'd better have a good story to tell and tell it well. If you can do that, people will make sure to be there when you are, and will listen to whatever you have to say.