Despite my seemingly endless search for a good online content distribution model, I have to admit that I’ve been slow to move my own reading from print to digital. As I’ll mention in a bit later, however, ESPN (of all things!) is helping me switch.
I scan/read through a lot of computer/tech trade magazines. That’s only part of the line-up, however. Here’s what I tend to look at on a regular basis:
InfoWorld, eWeek, ComputerWorld, InformationWeek, BusinessWeek, Time, FastCompany, Business 2.0, PC Magazine, PC World, mental floss, Discover, Wired, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine
I used to get most of my tech news from InfoWorld and ComputerWorld. Like most tech magazines, the issues today are a fraction of the size they were in the late ‘90’s. As a result, I tend to use cnet’s news.com and Google News to get more of my tech news these days. If you haven’t tried Google News, you need to. I love the fact that I can configure it to always be on the lookout for the latest stories on whatever keywords I give it.
I’m concerned that switching more to an online reading approach is going to narrow my focus too much, causing me to miss out on some of the things I might stumble across in a print magazine. My online reading experience is fairly common: I search for a phrase and read about the results. This doesn’t lend itself to the exploration into completely unrelated topics you might find yourself jumping to in a magazine. So although approximately 90% of my day-to-day reading activity is done via print, I’m not sure I’d ever be happy with a reversed model where 90% of my reading is done online.
By the way, is anyone familiar with a search/news service that offers a feature similar to Amazon’s “Customers who viewed this also viewed…”, but from a linkage/clickthru point of view? For example, one of my Google News search items is “Windows Vista”. Google does a fine job giving me a list of related stories sorted either by relevance or date. But what about having a third sort option: “by clickthru”, where the links at the top are the ones most clicked on by those who searched before you? Yes, Google does a nice job of figuring out the most relevant links for my search phrase, but I’d also like to know which links real people found to be the most valuable. Maybe this is part of the much more complex “relevance” algorithm, but I’d like to see it separated as a option all its own.
I’d also like to see a separate box in the results, perhaps set off to the side, entitled “Readers who viewed this also viewed…” along with a list of links to other popular sites/stories, many of which might have nothing to do with Windows Vista. This last piece would help me better understand what other topics and articles Windows Vista fans are interested in. It would probably also go a long way in helping me avoid that overly narrow focus I mentioned above.
So how in the world is ESPN helping push me more away from the print side to the online side? Well, after being a loyal print subscriber for the past several years, my service was abruptly discontinued when I missed the renewal payment deadline. I figure I’ve got too much to read already and I shouldn’t bother with the renewal now that they’ve cut me off. But, I couldn’t resist giving them some friendly advice: The next time a regular customer with a long track record of on time payments misses a renewal deadline, they might want to send one last, free copy along with a note saying something like, “Hey, we know you’re busy and you love our magazine. We’re giving you an extra one-issue grace period to pay us for your renewal.” Heck, I would have picked up the phone that day and given them my credit card number. Instead I now feel like I’ve been tossed out into the street. At least I’ve still got my Sports Illustrated subscription to keep me happy in the offline world.