Going mobile with a news site that Just Works

Point #2 of my Seven simple thoughts about the Mobile Web was "Your old website should Just Work. ... When someone wants to use your website from a mobile browser for whatever reason, including following a link that someone sent them through Twitter, it should detect the user's browser and deliver an appropriately formatted page."

What we won't learn from the New York Times' paywall

So the New York Times has announced it will begin charging for access to its website, using a metered model similar to the one I discussed recently. The reactions have been predictable. I want to focus on one small angle: What we won't learn.

We won't learn a thing this year, because they're not doing it until 2011.

Paid content and the march to Paris

There's an incident from World War II that I think can teach us something about paid content.

At the end of the first war, the French built a series of defensive fortifications along the border with Germany called the Maginot Line. It was supposed to make it too expensive for the Germans to attack, because they would have to conquer heavily defended positions.

But the Germans simply avoided the line, using new technology to practice fast-moving "lightning war," crossing into Belgium, flanking the Maginot fortifications, and proceeding to Paris.

The first rule of coding for Drupal

This is a message to prospective Drupal developers. I'm going to propose this as the First Rule of Coding for Drupal: We do not write code for Drupal.

The year of the tablet?

If you believe all the hype coming out of CES at Las Vegas this week, this is the Year of the Tablet, and the Year of 3-D Television. The latter is easily dismissed (maybe 5 years from now, but not 2010). As for the former: I repeat what I said nearly three years ago. There's a bunch of hurdles to be overcome.

The passing of Editor & Publisher

In the newsroom of the first daily newspaper that employed me, Editor & Publisher magazine was forbidden because of the employment classifieds that justified the "editor" part of its title. The editor regarded it as subversive literature, luring his staff to faraway places with the promise of riches, or at least a living wage.

Thinking about a paywall? Read this first

If you're thinking about charging for content, this high-quality infographic could save you from making a big mistake:

What is this? It's the general shape of your typical newspaper website's user behavior over the course of a month.

This is a not a graph that your typical Web metrics system offers up without a struggle, but if you can force it to reveal this data, it's eye-opening. I first pulled this sort of curve out of a Tacoda system half a dozen years ago, and it changed a lot of my thinking.

Lookie Lou isn't really a customer

Danny Sullivan is getting a lot of points for his post beating up on News Corp. titled If Newspapers Were Stores, Would Visitors Be “Worthless” Then?

Far be it from me to defend Rupert Murdoch.

But I have to take issue with the premise that newspaper executives are idiots for not realizing the immense value of random visitors from random places who stumble across a newspaper story.

It ain't there.

As so often is the case, Sullivan uses an analogy, then takes it to absurdity:

A professional journalist embarrasses himself in Jackson, Tenn.

As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps we all should stop and give thanks that we have not, recently at least, made fools of ourselves quite as thoroughly as did Jackson (Tenn.) Sun editorial page editor Tom Bohs when he admonished "citizen journalists:"

"If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out."

You too, Tom.

Some advice to designers of news websites

This morning I ran across a note at drupal.org from a beginning designer asking for a critique of his attempt to design a news site. The attempt led me to focus on some weaknesses that are common to many professionally designed sites.

There are too many "redesigns" of news sites, and the typical redesign process is set up for failure. It goes like this: