The Guardian has “improved” its website of late – just a pity it doesn’t work properly.
Clicking on a link on the home page will take you where you want to go – but it needs 2 clicks to return. If I visit a page with an interesting comments thread, every comment I post will add another 2 clicks to return to the home page – it’s very easy to wind up in mouse-click hell!
As you can see here:-
One click took me from Food & drink news to Wigan retains pie-eating title, where I posted 2 comments – look how many clicks it needs to get back (OK, I know I can use that menu to skip the intervening pages, but it’s still a major fault).
So now, when I logged in, a pop-up pane, er, popped up, and I was asked to complete a feedback survey. Great, I thought – then realised there was absolutely no way to go from that pane to an actual survey. I followed the obscure instructions – nothing happened except the pane vanished.
Muttering imprecations, I opened the History side-bar, clicked the link and lo! – there it was in all its bog-standard marketing-speak banality. Not much use for saying, Hey! Fix your bloody website!
There is, though, a rumour doing the rounds that the Guardian and Observer are about to go behind a paywall and, sure enough, question 29 gives the game away:-
29: *Have you ever paid, in any way, for digital news content? Please indicate in which ways you have ever paid.
In my view, all the rest is window-dressing – what they want to establish a willingness to pay for news which, let’s face it, is still widely available free.
Back in October, in this blog post I wrote that if the Guardian wanted to charge for its digital content, changes will need to be made:-
“…as it’s pretty much impossible to get a journalists’ post at the Guardian without a degree these days, why is nobody checking to ensure these people can actually write standard, grammatically and syntactically correct, English?
Interesting factoid: standards are higher, often much higher, at the Guardian, among journalists and contributors of my generation (give or take a decade), than among the bunch of 20-30-somethings currently writing much online drivel (I’m assuming it’s online – I’d hate to think people were paying good money for this in the print version).
I have an ongoing, and so far one-sided, campaign at the Guardian, trying to convince them that if they want to start charging us for online content, or as one clown suggested recently, start taxing broadband to support newspapers, then they need to raise their standards. Considerably.”
Add to that a seriously malfunctioning website, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I’d pay a penny for their digital output until the fix all the glitches, snafus and fubars, and empty out the sub-literate clods currently cluttering up the place.
It’s been suggested that they might follow the New York Times’ example, and allow a fixed number of free articles per month, before the paywall kicks in, which, at the NYT, is 30, I think. Not good for me as there are times when I can read 30 articles a day.
This is the current digital tariff:-
I assume paywall rates will be much the same. Personally, if it was a closed paywall, like the Times, for example, I would expect a substantially lower tariff, otherwise there would be no incentive to pay for what, as I said, will still be available free elsewhere.
One beneficial side-effect of a closed paywall, though, is that it would get rid of the trolls and morons who have been infesting CiF, and the other comment pages, since the Murdoch press vanished behind theirs. Who knows, CiF might conceivably return to the halcyon days when the level of debate was frequently more literate and intelligent than the article which spawned it.
Now that, I might be willing to pay for.
However, there is one thing I’ll want to see returned if they want my money. The first thing to go in the earliest stages of the website revision, was any means to hold editors and journalists to account for publishing/writing complete bollocks.
At the end of every article was a drop-down box with contact details for the editor(s) responsible and the readers’ editor. That’s gone, and I doubt I’m the only one who wants it back.
Journalists and contributors can normally be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or @observer.co.uk Problem is, it’s often impossible, online, to figure out which paper a hack writes for if you don’t already know.
And finally, one thing that seriously pisses me off is one of the Grauniad’s very young baby hacks discovering something the entire adult world has known since god was in short pants, and hysterically touting it as if it were their very own discovery! Here’s a tip, kids – check with one of your older colleagues, then you won’t look a complete tit!
Recently we had one such kid, no doubt with her freshly-minted Junior Reporter’s badge brightly polished, claiming in the face of no evidence whatsoever, that swivel-blade vegetable peelers have only been around since the 90s when, in fact, the Rex peeler – which I still use today – has been made since 1947. And today, we have another kiddiewink enthusing about the Whisky Mac as if it were something new and previously unheard of!
I prefer Jack Daniel’s in mine, if you’re buying…