Monday, 1 September 2008

Football - it ruins lives

Some days you've just got to take it on the chin.

A gremlin crept into our site today, and played havoc with our PA national football feeds (I've always maintained football is the root of all evil, and this just goes to prove my theory). The upshot was, we ended up with several month-old stories about Premiership teams. They weren't linked to the site, but fans from all over the world were finding them, through Google I guess, and they weren't impressed. And not impressed in such large numbers they were soon at the top of our Most Read and Most Commented tabs.

Here's the story which inspired the most comments.
I knew there was no hiding from it when the comment about Noah and the storm went up. By the end of the day, and the advent of the bubonic plague and the man on the moon, I'd started laughing too - but it took a while.

Funnily enough, reporter Judith Townend tweeted about another story where the comments about a burnt chair in Kendal took off in even more inventive ways, even as our little debate was unfolding - although my personal favourite is one a bit closer to us, at the Surrey Comet, about a pigeon cull.


Adrian Short said...

Why is the story still up with the wrong dateline?

There's a perennial story from 2001 on BBC News about Microsoft considering charging a fee for Hotmail that tops the Most Read section from time to time due to it being featured in a chain email. Most Read/Most Commented boxes can create an echo chamber effect where the "rich get richer". While this may be fine for community-driven sites like Digg (in fact, it's their raison d'etre), on a news site it should be editors that assign prominence to stories, not readers.

If you are going to include such features, carefully set the timeframe as short as possible to avoid snowballing stories that don't deserve it.

Jo Wadsworth said...

Story is still up because I can't get to it through our CMS, as it's a PA feed. Our HQ web team are looking into it.

Actually, this brings me back to a point you made before, about how news aggregation and creation will become separated. Why so? Why can't a news service do both?

In many ways, our site does that - with our national news, sport and ents PA feeds (not withstanding our current gremlins) - but we've also got a Yahoo Pipes Crystal Palace news aggregator on our Palace News channel - and when Croydon stories go huge nationally, we now provide links to other internet reports. Can't point you in the direction of any, as there haven't been any since relaunch, but we did this when the Alex Big Brother story ran earlier this summer.

I agree there are limitations to this - there's no way we'd link to a story on our direct competitor sites, but then if the story was that good, we would do our own version in any case - a different kind of aggregation, you could argue?

Oh, and completely agree with the echo chamber point - however in this case, these stories got top billing within minutes, as there will always be a much bigger audience seeking out Arsenal stories than Croydon ones.

Adrian Short said...

A news service can do both reporting and aggregation and I'm sure that many will continue to do so. But at the aggregation level they'll face competition from commercial and non-commercial aggregators, which is something new.

The newspaper-in-print is a bundle and very few people are interested in every part of that bundle. Aggregation is work which most people will prefer to have done for them. As the aggregation marketplace expands, traditional titles will have to find ways to cater for readers with increasingly diverse tastes or lose their middleman status to other aggregators who can serve those readers better.