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March 04, 2007


Joseph Hunkins

Don thanks for doing this bit of research on the comments. Maybe mom and pop aren't so hip to Social Networking, and if this is the case we may in for some big insights as legacy media seems to be moving in the Social Network direction.


It is also entirely possible that a lot of people did like it, but didn't care enough to post a comment to that effect. It is usually only the disgruntled and dissapointed that care enough to voice their opinions.

Don Dodge

Michael, I hear what you are saying but when 92% of the comments are negative...I think there is a problem.

When you say "only the disgruntled and dissapointed that care enough to voice their opinions."...perhaps. But, the more likely case is that for every one person that complains there are 10 more who dislike it but don't make the effort to fill out a registration form, confirm it via email, go to the site, and write a comment that hasn't already been made several times before.

Executives who rationalize away complaints as coming from a vocal minority, and thinking that most people love their service but don't bother to comment...are seriously delusional.

I like USA Today, and I like their new features. However, I think they made a big mistake changing the layout and design at the same time. They obviously didn't test the changes with a representative sample of users. They will get it right eventually. I hope they stick with the features.

Don Park

Maybe it's just me but I would think *commenter" reactions are not necessarily same as *readership* reactions. Silent majority means something, doesn't it?

Fred Zimmerman

Don, I like the new USA today. The problem is that it's still the same dumb ol' content: what They think We care about, namely, Ourselves and only that.

As far as your lessons are concerned, there are a lot of reasons why it doesn't usually work out to change the UI and the features at different times. You also learn less than you might think from introducing new features one at a time because there are always confounding variables that make it difficult to be sure that the periods are truly commensurable.

Paul Kedrosky

Hey Don -- Agreed, and such was the gist of my post on this yesterday to which Mr. Ingram responded in his comment, cited above.

Ricardo Conte

1. Congratulations for your always clever postings.
2. Hope you do not mind me asking for a comment on the move from Brightcove (you once called our attemtion to them) towards more "popular" videos...
Brightcove: "This week we introduced some new capabilities on brightcove.com that we think you should take for spin. Dubbed 'Brightcove Personal', the features allow any end-user in the world to freely create their own channels on brightcove.com. Within these channels, end-users can do a few things..."


Are they deviating from their original focus ?

Thank you very much,
Ricardo Conte

Don Dodge

Ricardo, Yes, Brightcove is expanding their reach to consumers,and who could blame them given all the attentionn given to YouTube and others.

But, I don't think it will be too distracting to Brightcove. Their main business is with high quality video producers, and will remain so. It was an easy, low cost extension to open the same service up to consumers.

I haven't talked with Jeremy about this so I don't know how much resource they are applying to the consumer side. My guess is not much.


I did not think the page looked that bad, but it may be because I have not visited USA Today online in eons. I used to read parts of it when I had it linked via the MyYahoo! page. It does seem to want to pack an awful lot into a little space, but hey, it is not as bad as other sites (MySpace anyone?). I found interesting the one commenter over there referring to Yahoo! eliminating their Discuss option. That option was pretty much notorious as a trolling ground, and in my case at least, I was glad they took it out. I can only hope USA Today's comment section does not degenerate into what Yahoo! used to have. Anyhow, just a thought. Best, and keep on blogging.

Mia D

Great post! I completely agree, changing both UI and features at the same time confuses users and it's a user-testing nightmare. A public beta site might have been a better option given the magnitude of these changes.
I am curious how USAT is going to respond to these negative comments and channel those into meaningful site changes. Is it planning to go back to the original design or stick with this new one?

Greg Linden

It is interesting to see USA Today jump on the social networking bandwagon.

The negative reaction, however, should make us hesitate and question how much interest the mainstream has in community features.

Does grandma come to USA Today to participate in the conversation? Or does she just want to read the top headlines picked by USA Today editors she trusts?

Personally, I find the rating buttons, links to comments, and other community feature goo on the new page to be distracting. The reason I go to USA Today is to read news. The focus of the page should be on reading news. Anything else, I think, detracts from the experience.

Joseph Swope

I think USA Today made a typical communications mistake: they went with what was "cool" rather than meeting the expectations of their readers. I'm assuming most readers were like me -- Iwent to USA Today because it was a national newspaper and I wanted to find out quickly what was going on in the world. I didn't go there to find out what other people thought about what was going on in the world. I wasn't interested in the national blog. On top of that, the new format is difficult to use, almost impossible to navigate, and just plain unattractive. I burned up my mouse scrolling and scrolling down the page.

James  Governor

hey Don - i was wondering how recent MS software delivery follows your rules? 1 and 3 are tagged but 3 i would argue isn't, in either Vista or Office. seriously i think your analysis is quite useful, but i would like to see it applied to your own recent products.

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