Look Both Ways, by Linda Criddle

LookAs a reader of this blog there's a pretty high likelihood that you not only realize the online predator problem but you have also taken some steps to protect your family.  It's probably the less web-savvy parents out there that really need better guidance...or are they the only ones struggling?  I don't think so.

As a parent and someone who uses Norton's Parental Control product as another layer of security, I thought I knew all the facts about safeguarding my kids online.  Now that I've had the chance to read Linda Criddle's book Look Both Ways, I can see how naive I've been.  The book is full of practical how-to advice that's critical for any parent of kids who are browsing, chatting, blogging, etc.  Loads of checklists are used throughout and Linda builds the bulk of the book around her "13 Steps to Internet Security."

If you're a parent, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book.  Perhaps more importantly, if you know any parents who aren't all that well-versed in online safety measures (and we all know at least one, right?!), buy them a copy as a holiday gift.  This is a problem that isn't going away anytime soon, so it is best to follow the advice of an expert like Linda Criddle.

The Hyper-Local Newspaper Solution

Want to see how a newspaper can successfully leverage the web?  Read this article about Rob Curley and The Naples Daily News in Fast Company.  Newspapers don't need to partner with Yahoo or sell out to other new media giants.  All it takes is three types of coverage to generate buzz and interest: local, local and local.

Check out this list of microsites that Curley developed and see for yourself why they're not only wildly popular but also huge advertising opportunities.  I wish my local paper would learn a thing or two from Curley and The Naples Daily News.

Content Overkill

Is it possible to cram too much content onto a web page? Absolutely. Just hop over to si.com or espn.com for a couple of great examples. Sports sites aren’t the only ones guilty of this, of course, but they’re a great example of content gone wild.

I was reading a recent post by Steve Klein on the E-Media Tidbits blog before I realized I’m not the only sports fan totally turned off by this content cramming approach. Honestly, take a look at either of those pages and tell me where your eyes go first. You could probably flash the same page in front of me 10 different times and I’m likely to initially look at a different item every time.

So what? They’re getting loads of traffic because of their brand names and the temptation is probably to continue one-upping each other, jamming the next item into the main page until almost nothing is readable.

Then again, at least SI has come to their senses. I dropped my ESPN Magazine subscription long ago but I continue to subscribe to SI. As Steve pointed out, and I saw on the cover wrap for a recent issue, SI is about to launch MySI. Just like another favorite of mine, MyYahoo, I plan to customize MySI to help make sense of the clutter.

Sure, I’ll spend 10-15 minutes checking boxes and moving items around to help make my si.com experience a better one. I just wish they’d come to their senses and clean it up on their own. Apparently si.com and espn.com have never read anything on usability and they certainly haven’t paid any attention to Google’s “keep it simple and clean” approach.

Data Mining Fun at AOL’s Expense

AOL’s little search data leak is producing all sorts of interesting stories. This article from Lee Gomes sheds a bit of light on some of the more interesting aspects of the not-so-private data. Here are some of the more enlightening tidbits:

  • The word “free” is the most common term found in the 17 million+ searches. It will obviously remain quite challenging to convert all these free seekers into paying customers for things like content, for example.
  • In 47% of the searches conducted, users didn’t click on any of the results provided. Not a single click. Yikes. When you consider this statistic, it would seem that the search industry has nowhere to go but up, at least regard the quality of search results.
  • Related to the previous item, 28% of all searches were refinements of earlier searches. So more than one in four searches were the frustrated results of not finding what someone was looking for the first time. That sounds about right. I’d say I wind up rephrasing my searches about a quarter of the time.
  • In 42% of the searches the user clicked on the very first item in the search results. Yes, it pays to be #1 in the results, but how many people are misled into thinking their appearance further down the first page is a success? My guess is the click-thru rates drop precipitously as you go from #1 to #2 and so forth. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that anything below slot #3 is fighting for single-digit percentage click-thru results at best.
  • How well do the search engines answer queries structured as a question? According to Gomes, 35% of those questioners never clicked on an answer. No wonder Ask.com changed their philosophy.

CBS Streaming Prime-Time Shows – What’s Not to Like?

CBS is planning to join ABC’s earlier experiment of streaming prime-time shows. This makes total sense. Repurposing content. New ad revenue streams. Tapping into the long tail. My only question is why are the networks taking so long to implement such an obvious product extension? I’m guessing the local affiliates don’t like the fact that they’re going to lose out on some eyeballs and ad revenue, but will it really be that significant? After all, if you’re a loyal follower of a particular show, haven’t you got a DVR to automatically record it every week? If not the DVR, how about a VCR?

So who is the most likely consumer for this service? How about every working stiff with a computer in front of them?  Yes, office productivity is about to take a hit as the networks start rolling out more and more of these streaming options.