In failure to 'get' the Internet, CBS Online digs its own grave

In failure to 'get' the Internet, CBS Online digs its own grave

Summary: 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).

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TOPICS: Google, Browser
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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):

cbscomment.png

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.

Wrote Larry:

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).

Topics: Google, Browser

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8 comments
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  • Usual I don't correct typos but...

    ... annals of irrelevance.
    Anton Philidor
    • freudian slip

      or just a pain in the back side? (Just couldn't resist!<g>)
      bmgoodman
      • Not as *anal*about spelling as I should be?

        Thanks. Corrected.
        dberlind
      • Another meaning....

        Perhaps he meant they'd be sucked into a (ahem) "black hole" of irrelevance. :-)
        MGP2
  • Any exposure is good exposure...

    Why are you giving a competitor air time at your long-winded 'winey' expense? And who is Scoble? I remember a few years ago...

    Glad to hear your back is better.
    BillyG_n_SC
  • Still a TV-Centric Viewpoint

    They will give you a link on the TV program, but how about doing a better job of organizing the online content so you can find it anyway??
    3dguru
  • use "me, myself and I" much?

    look at how many times you refer to yourself in this post. It' snot really about CBS Online at all. it's all about YOU.
    rad1956
  • The Publish button will be enabled shortly

    I've seen that message about the Publish button, and I think there may be some confusion. When I saw it, I had a similar reaction to yours, and in fact thought my comment hadn't been accepted. But when I refreshed the page, my comment was there, and I believe the Publish button was back.

    I think the message is just very badly phrased. I think they decided to grey out the button after the user clicks it to prevent people from mistakenly posting the same comment multiple times (by clicking the button more than once), and then they added the less-than-helpful verbiage below it when they got complaints about the greyed-out button.

    They should have had it say something like, "Your message is being published," and removed the button entirely after you post (again, unless and until you reload the page).

    This is all just my supposition, as another user of the CBS web site, and I agree with the other points you make here.
    DavidConrad