Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tech notes

Small papers get that mobility thing

The Kansas City Star reports (reg. req.) that a K.C. company will provide text-messaging services to members of the National Newspaper Association. Mobile Media Technologies has the TextCaster service. According to the company's Web site, it already has an ecclectic mix of users, including a Jesuit high school in the Kansas City area.

Papers that use TextCaster will be able to send messages to cell-phone users who request them. The messages are free to the phone user.

The NNA represents more than 3,000 smaller newspapers, many of them non-dailies. The K.C. Star says this is a way to make them breaking news operations. OK, but how many are already using their Web sites that way? Too few, from what I've seen of Web sites that still show Thursday's news on Sunday. So I wonder how receptive they'll be to changing the mindset to do this? Remember, many of these papers have newsrooms of a half-dozen or fewer people. Users are likely to be disenchanted if the messages are few and far between. (I'm not saying there needs to be so many that it's a steady stream -- that's just as bad. But there is some implication here that the customer can expect more. And what about the disconnect if you are sending text messages but not updating your Web site? The messages could be expected to push traffic to the site, even if not overtly.)

(What's also interesting, is that while Mobile Media has on its Web site that the NNA deal is pending, NNA has nothing on its site as of this writing. So much for breaking news?)

News stories' online life
Nature online reports that a Notre Dame researcher and colleagues have determined a typical online news story has a shelf life of just 36 hours. They did this by studying one site -- Hungary's main news portal Origo. Aside from the weaknesses of studying just one site, does the figure surprise anyone? It's probably about 24 hours longer than the shelf life of a typical print story.

Quioting Nature: "Unsurprisingly, each item receives the most visits on the day it is posted, and the number of hits falls off rapidly after that." Researcher Zotan Dezs estimates a typical user sees 53 percent of the items before they leave the main page.

Two thoughts:
-- That 53 percent is actually probably pretty comparable to a newspaper, if you were to construct a "main" page, as is done on the Web, with the major stories from each section. I know lots of people in my household and others who look only at a section or two.
-- If you consider each day the story is displayed to be a separate data point, then this seems to resemble the common power law shape. For each day (N) added, the number of views would be 1/N -- in other words, a rapid drop. Since the power law depends on human nature to gravitate to that which is already known or recommended, one might make the case that the data points should be by each hour, since once a story is viewed, any recommendations to friends, etc., would more likely be immediate.

The entire study is here.


At 6/1/05, 6:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I'm happy to see that efforts like this are coming about with mobile technologies. Mobile carriers have been distributing information on behalf of various sources through SMS for a while now, but most users are still too many steps away from publishers in order to get information elsewhere. A newspaper offering a service like this direct to readers is a smart thing.


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