When I first started to really use the web back in the early to mid 90s one of my primary destinations was the online version of the USA Today newspaper. It had all the characteristics of what could make the web good back in the day– constantly updated content, ease of navigation, and good search. Every morning I would go into my little home office, fire up my PowerMac 7200 (let it crash and restart a few times), open up a PPP connection, wait while Netscape crawled to life, and watch the USA Today slowly draw on screen … it was my pre-rss daily routine. I would visit it a few times a day just to get the latest news. It was good, but then the web started to change for me and I just stopped showing up. By the emerging social standards the USA Today lacked the punch and collaborative feel of the places I began to spend most of my time — blogs.
Seeing that it is NCAA tournament time, I tend to use “real” web sites a bit more — you know ESPN, CBS Sportsline, and the USA Today. I find their coverage is more in line with what I need to make my annual (terrible) picks. At any rate, I hit the USA Today yesterday to find an interesting opportunity at the top of the site that pulled me in — an opportunity to become a member and log in. Right next to it I saw quotes from real people (just like me) about the things going on in the paper with links to the articles they were associated with. Here’s what I mean:
It isn’t immediately clear what membership provides, but after exploring it starts to make sense … set up a profile, give them some demographic info, and watch the news you want roll in. I accomplish the same thing through RSS and the dozens of sites I use to cull together the information I need to stay current. I suspect that the USA Today folks finally figured out it was time to hook up the power of the information they manage with the increasing demand for personalization and participation.
Will I spend more time at the USA Today? Maybe … I know it won’t be like it was back in the day, but I imagine if I get engaged with a community there I’ll be a return customer. I know other news sites are actively soliciting user participation in the form of videos and other user generated stories, but this one struck me as a nice move for one of my favorite old school web hangouts. Are there other traditional web spaces that are working hard to integrate web 2.0 concepts? I’d like to explore and watch how that goes for them as well.