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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
When I'm walking under stars / I covet all the waning hours
— Neko Case, Tightly
October 3, 2006
A National Embarassment

The Globe and Mail’s web site is a national embarasment.

Don’t get me wrong — the Globe remains the only newspaper published in Canada that I can actually read. By comparison to the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, the Toronto Star or any other regional paper, the Globe is the gold standard.

It even, dare I say it, approaches the quality of the New York Times.

But the web site is a national embarassment.

I’ve thought this for a long time, but the scales finally tipped the other day. Why? They’ve inserted advertising into their RSS feeds, and they’re not even doing that well. They are, in fact, trying to make their advertisements look exactly like headlines.

This is a heinous deception, and it needs to be stopped.

The Globe’s RSS feeds provide a convenient way to scan headlines and stories. Using Safari, I know when new articles have been posted (and how many have been posted) without having to randomly hit the web site. Most newspapers are doing this, and it’s extremely useful.

These feeds are also used to feed content to third party aggregators such as Google News or your personal pages. They serve a good purpose.

Slate Magazine started inserted ads in their RSS feeds ages ago, but I hardly noticed. Banner ads, similar to those that appear in web pages, started appearing. I can either pay attention or skip them as I see fit.

The Globe and Mail RSS feed as viewed in Safari. The red arrow has been added to clearly indicate the RSS feed.

The Globe has taken another route — inserting the ads as a headline, with the word ADV: in front of the headline. These headlines are virtually impossible to distinguish from the newspaper headlines — this makes this nothing more than a devious method of forcing you to read them.

It also makes it extremely annoying.

This is only the start of the list of things that are horrible about the Globe’s site. Try chaging the font size of your page and it breaks; the commenting feature takes the approach of not posting anything until it’s approved by editors; the home page is virtually impossible to scan visually and makes it extremely difficult to find any articles in sections that aren’t featured articles; an enormous banner ad appears above the paper’s masthead; pictures from newspaper articles don’t appear online.

There’s a stark contrast to the New York Times, which has continued to lead the newspaper world in its use of online tools. Their RSS feeds work and a quick look at the headlines on the home page gives you an overview of the entire paper’s contents. The general impression is of an organization where the news comes first, not the advertising.

This is a national embarassment, and I can’t figure out why it’s been allowed to go on for so long.

Posted by skooter at 6:14 AM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Advertising, Globe and Mail, RSS

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