Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Techno-Torture

At the end of many of my favorite TV newscasts, the anchor often invites the viewer to log on to the network’s respective website to enjoy what is often plugged as “an endless amount of online content, interviews and extra news coverage.” Once I finally make it onto a website, like cnn.com or the news section of nbc.com, the websites are often far less inviting than the teleprompter-friendly invitations to which TV viewers are regularly subjected. Let’s recount my most recent experience:

I own a Mac computer but it is a brand new intel Mac which means that the majority of content available to the PC-dominated real world, should be available to me. But that is not the case. For example, if I click on any of the videos that accompany the print articles on cnn.com, I am confronted with a variety of error messages on my computer. Most of these messages inform me that I don’t have the correct Windows Media player plug-in, which is not correct, I do (even though cnn.com tells me otherwise). If I click on the Pipeline section of cnn.com, I have no trouble watching the video streams the only catch is that I must allow cnn.com to bill me $0.99 for videos of poorer quality that would otherwise be free if I turned on my TV. At this point I’m frustrated and decide to try something else.

So, I go to nbc.com and click on their “news” section. A lovely little box with a description of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams appears. At this point I’m excited and eager to download video content from his show. I comply with the disclaimer and click on the video section of the Nightly News and once again, I am redirected to another message: “Collections of video news and documentary programming are now available for purchase and download from the iTunes Music Store.” I click on a new link - again - (only to be redirected for a fourth time) and I arrive in the easily accessible “podcast” section of the iTunes Store. I am greeted by an icon of the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and quickly learn that it is a “free” download from iTunes. Phenomenal! So I click download and about 60 seconds later I have the September 29th podcast of the NBC nightly news on my desktop. I open the file and to my horror I realize that NBC is only kind enough to provide VIEWERS with the audio version of their Nightly News. Now if I wanted to only hear my news programming, I would go to the AM dial on my radio and sit by a fire place. The NBC website claims that they have online video readily available. NBC anchors make the same claim. The reviews from other people, however, who have also tried to download podcasts from NBC in iTunes, clearly reveals that dozens of iTunes store users are equally angry that they’ve spent at least 15 minutes trying to access video for a podcast that NBC has decided to restrict to an audio format. I’ve never been more aggravated trying to watch the news online. Next time I will stick to my television and avoid the technological torture.

Posted by MG

4 Comments:

At Wednesday, October 04, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I couldn't agree more with your frustrations. It seems deceiving when anchors go out of their way multiple times throughout a newscast to alert viewers looking to "see the full story" or get “extra coverage” to visit their network's website. The time spent on mechanically spelling out websites not only wastes time that could be spent on flushing out stories, but it evokes excitement and anticipation in viewers that may not necessarily be met. On repeated occasions, I have jumped at the opportunity to download a newscast that I have missed. More often than not, I too am greeted by error messages and unwarranted pop-ups. My network is not compatible. To illustrate, on CBSNews.com today, it is written, “Only On The Web: Katie Couric gives a preview of tonight's stories. On the rundown, an exclusive piece from Lara Logan, the fallout from the Foley scandal, the new Peter Pan — and more.” Anchors like Couric pitch to stories like these in their newscasts, but viewers like myself, eager to see exclusive web features and are Apple users, cannot. It sometimes feels as if I’m being discriminated against because of the computer I use. Why should PC users be able to get the “behind-the-scenes” content and not I? If networks are going to work so hard to upload their content online, then they should work even harder to ensure the greater public can access it. Isn't one of the goals of journalism to reach the largest public possible? Macs are not new to the computer scene. Those in the news industry need to address this before unfairly pitching web content that, for many, is inaccessible.

-JG

 
At Wednesday, October 04, 2006, Anonymous EG said...

I agree. I think there is a big problem with news organizations of all kinds working far too hard to keep up with what they see as the future of news. In my opinion, they should limit their explorations into unnecessary "extras" and stick to the business of doing good news (which is why we turn to them in the first place.)

One of the most annoying features of online newspapers and sites like cnn.com is that some stories have only a snippet of written content and the rest is a video. Usually, I really just want to read the story, not sit through a video.

And on TV, I agree that all of the teasers for separate web content are often misleading. I wish they'd use the 30 seconds spent telling me what I can see on the web to give me the news now, since I've tuned in to see it.

I could just be old-fashioned, but why can't we all just recognize what we're good at and stick to it?

-EG

 
At Thursday, October 05, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

Very funny but true. Usually when we want to watch something online we are bomborded with "you need x in order to watch y" would you like to download? Of course with the onslaught of publishers trying to get savvy with the online world, they are most likely looking for the company that will give them the best deal, i.e. you scratch my back I'll scratch yours with a lovely ad or sponsorship on my site. The viewer really isn't important.

 
At Friday, October 06, 2006, Anonymous TD said...

I could not agree more with you. I love watching CNN on T.V. but am frustrated with the network's online content. It is impossible to watch as a Mac user unless you download a bunch of programs that you don't want on your computer at all!

I will say ABC-7 in Chicago does a good job of delivering online news because it is easy to access and is right there on the website. BUT, the screen is tiny and you cannot make it bigger (like you can in iTunes).

A solution needs to happen. As a viewer, I end up getting frustrated and going to get online national news from anchors and networks that are not my number one choice.

Luckily, ABC-7 here provides me with my online local news coverage.

POSTED BY:TD

 

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