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March 12, 2007

Beyond Clicking

Am I the only one who doesn't obsessively click around while reading New York Times articles? I'm happy to sign up for the awesome pro-clicking campaign, but I haven't fallen afoul of the new feature. I just hate it because the cool kids do. That said, it's sort of an odd idea to make each and every word instantly and easily definable. Maybe The New York Times has seen some really surprising focus group data, but I'd never imagined their audience as one that's constantly reaching for the dictionary.

Instead, this seems to be more of the annoying internet consultant with "interactivity." Whenever I speak to folks trying to bring their publications into the digital age, that's the buzz word, the guiding light, the holy grail. Everything must be interactive. Whether anyone wanted that particular bit of interactivity is rather beside the point; they'll appreciate the effort anyway. This has long seemed a fairly serious misunderstanding of what makes the internet so powerful for print publications/ It's not the possibilities for interactivity. It's the storage.

The defining fact of dead tree media is space limitation, wherein every new feature or extra article takes space away from another contender for the newsprint. That means that you have to pick stories with the broadest, rather than the most intense, appeal. The endless vistas of the internet dismantle that constraint, and allow you to create all sorts of niche content that, while only appealing to certain audience, really appeals to them. If half the energy that went into snazzy new features and interactive gizmos went into the conceptualization and creation of new, more interesting, more specific, content, the publications would be much better off. And all my friends could go back to obsessive clicking.

March 12, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

It's the storage.

The storage isn't very helpful without the real-time online linking that makes the net powerful in ways that dead-tree media or cable TV can never be. The user gets to check up on, broaden, and critique the facts, analysis and opinion consistency of the writer.

So: It's the online linking backed by essentially unlimited storage.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Mar 12, 2007 11:56:54 AM

Um, so people are double-clicking words all over the place? And this helps highlight stuff, just clicking on one word and changing the location of that box every time you do it?

I click on a bunch of stuff too, but not just one word at a time. I select phrases or passages.

It's a useless feature, but not necessarily an annoying one.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 12, 2007 1:03:13 PM

It's not just storage, it's accessibility and the ability to allow users to find the information they want as quickly as possible.

As far as the javascript spellchecker goes, I don't really see the point to it. I think the NYT dropped the ball on it. The least they could have done would have been to set up a preference to turn off this "feature." It wouldn't be that hard. But to my thinking, the whole thing is misguided. If it is important for a user to have a dictionary search, it is easy enough to get a plugin for it: Firefox or MSIE 7 (not quite as nice, but what can you do?).

Posted by: josephdietrich | Mar 12, 2007 5:06:54 PM

BTW, the easiest way to avoid this "feature" is to use Firefox and install the NoScript plugin (which is a good idea for other reasons as well).

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