Back in April, I published a post under the headline What’s wrong with this CBS News story is also what’s wrong with the mainstream media. I left the question open to ZDNet readers to spot what was wrong with the story in question -- a story about a guy who used YouTube to let people know he was available just to talk (he got over 5,000 calls, by now, probably more). Most of the comments focused on the news value of the story. But, my issue was more fundamental than that. Forget if the story is worth publishing in the first place. If the news is about a Web page (which this essentially was, and many future stories will be), then the least that an online news source can do is point to that Web page. After reading the story on CBSNews.com, that's the first thing I was looking for. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. How can CBS hope to remain relevant as a source of information if it fails in this very basic premise of the Web?
<sidebar>Provoked by the results he was seeing on TechMeme, Robert Scoble dove into the issue of linkage (and lack thereof) yesterday. He cited my coverage of Google Gears and its lack of linkage to other blogs covering the same story. In response, I submitted a comment (must still be in the approval queue) to make it clear that this was neither deliberate or a matter of ZDNet policy. My blog post posted at precisely 4pm PT -- the time at which my non-disclosure agreement with Google expired and the precise time at which Google released the news. Prior to that time, there was nothing substantive about Google Gears to link to. In his coverage of Google Gears however, Robert linked to my story and I thanked him for that in the comment that I submitted to his blog. Meanwhile, whereas I had a podcast interview with Google Director of Engineering Linus Upson, Robert subsequently published a video interview with Google developer product manager Bret Taylor.</sidebar>
Speaking of filing comments on blogs, and back to the issue at hand -- CBS online -- I was once again reminded yesterday of how CBS simply doesn't get it. A couple of months ago, in the New York Times, I spotted a story where the author questioned the effectiveness of back surgery. It was a pretty big story and if I recall correctly (I was never able to find the online version), the story considered the potential frivolity of back surgery given the deepening cost of health care. In early 2006, after months of suffering the type of pain that even methodone did nothing for (trust me, the doctors tried), back surgery saved my life.
Yesterday, CBSNews.com had a similar story to the one run earlier by the New York Times. As you can see on the comments to that story, there are CBS audience members sharing some very personal information regarding back pain and surgery. After writing about my back surgery here on ZDNet, I received several e-mails and even ended up on the phone with people who wanted to talk to somebody who had been through it. The CBS story motivated me to file a comment regarding my own state of being before and after my surgery and, after typing the comment in once, I learned that CBS' comment capability only allows comments of 1500 characters or less. So, I tried to break it into two parts and the error message I got after trying to post Part I shocked me:
The Publish button will be enabled shortly. We have temporarily disabled it so everyone has an opportunity to comment.
Here's a screen shot (with that text highlighted):
Knowing I'd want to write about this, I hunted down my previous (aforelinked) post regarding CBSNews.com only to find fellow ZDNet blogger Larry Dignan's rant about CBS Sportsline's repeated problems.
The bottom line here is that SportsLine is testing its technology infrastructure without a net. And that's a recipe for disaster (not uncommon though since ESPN had similar problems when I was a customer three years ago).
Larry praised Sportsline for its candor throughout the multiple incidents. But in the bigger picture, a pattern seems to be forming in terms of Web operations at CBS; one where, if it continues to advertently or inadvertently hamper its own audience members' efforts to interactively congregate and engage its portfolio of Web sites (be it through something as simple as requisite linkage, comments, or services), it will descend into the
anals annals of irrelevance (and the rest of CBS' media properties will be doomed to follow).