What are we to conclude from stark contrast between the (sometimes breathless) praise of USA Today’s “social media” redesign among tech/media bloggers and commentators (with some saying they didn’t go far enough), and the near universal rejection of the redesign among USA Today readers who commented on it? Could it be that it’s really the social media revolutionaries who “don’t get it” when they assume that what the people want is to rise up against the media autocracy and take control, when in fact what most people want is to get high quality information from a reliable source? Or are the negative comments on USA Today’s redesign merely a reflection of the small percentage of users who are always disgruntled when you make a change?
As with most things, I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Tech/media bloggers do tend to overestimate the demand for “social” everything among the masses of mainstream users, while many media companies have indeed been slow to take even obvious steps like allowing every item of content to accept comments.
Bottom line is that whether you think USA Today went too far or not far enough, the reality is that the only way for them to find out was to try. So kudos to them for trying and, hopefully, learning. The rest of us in media are fortunate to be able to learn from their experiment as well.
Beyond that, my only other comment is that the word “social” continues to obfuscate more than it elucidates — if you told the average USA Today user that the redesign made the site more “social,” they’d probably have no idea what you’re talking about. But if you said, you can now add your comments to any story and create a profile that keeps track of all your comments, and you can also vote on whether you think a story is important, they’d be able to make a real judgement about the value to them, which will inevitably range from high value to no value.