It seems many people are having their say on The Scotsman’s new-look website. I think I’ll let the dust settle first before making up my own mind.
The opinion I’d probably trust over any other would be that of Stewart Kirkpatrick, who took as his budget a collection of copper coins, buttons and pocket fluff, yet still managed to turn scotsman.com into a giant of the online news world.
Since departing to become a technical guru for hire he’s remained extremely diplomatic about his own thoughts on the new look site. However, he has pulled together a random sample of posts and feedback comments from users, which you can read on his Sour Alba blog, by clicking here.
I’m afraid it doesn’t make very good reading. The particularly damning comments are those from users claiming they now prefer The Herald’s website. Even just a few months ago that wasn’t just unlikely, it was unthinkable.
Then again, who’s to say what is unthinkable in the media these days? A few years ago I wouldn’t have believed the Scottish Sun would be comfortably and consistenltly outselling the Daily Record. If that can happen in the world of traditional newspapers, then we should be ready for just about anything in the brave (if somewhat flighty) new world of digital media.
One of the reasons I’m going to delay opining on the new Scotsman site is because I simply haven’t used it, other than to have a very, very quick scan. The other main reason is that in the world of Web 2.0 calamities can be turned round pretty quickly. Indeed the whole world of New Media is built round the concept of “conversations”, letting businesses get near instantaneous feedback from customers – the theory being they can then evolve very smartly indeed, according to both negative and postivie feedback.
It’s fairly well known that in the US, as part of that new media conversation, countless big businesses now put their new products out to bloggers to refine as part of the process of bringing them to the market. In my limited understanding, when this refers to software or web products, it is called beta testing.
Indeed, the biggest business of them all, Microsoft , is currently engaged in beta testing of the upgrade to its Vista Operating system (called Service Pack 1, or SP 1). You can read more about that as narrated by influential (and British) PR blogger, Neville Hobson, by clicking here.
I know The Scotsman carried out beta testing of sorts on their new site, though I am vague on the details. My hope would have been they’d have caught most of the big gripes and gremlins at that stage. Which means it doesn’t augur well that there is still so much negative feedback among core users. Nor is Johnston Press a firm renowned for its forward thinking attitudes.
Scotland has precious few genuine, new media pioneers or flagbearers. However, Scotsman.com was one of them. To see it turned into a glorified weekly newspaper website (which seems to mb the opinion of many users at the moment) would be a tragedy.
Though, just to finish on a positive note (and to keep that evolution analogy running), it’s exactly that kind of unexpected extinction which can sometimes let a new species evolve in quite extraordinary ways. So maybe if scotsman.com really has had its day, it will be exactly what’s needed to bring through the next generation of Stewart Kirkpatricks.