I’ve been meaning for a while to put down in writing my thoughts on Scoop.co.nz. What follows is hopefully constructive criticism.
What is Scoop?
Scoop calls itself an “independent news website” but it’s fundamentally a big collection of press releases. It’s been collecting them since 1999 — mostly from New Zealand — and now has a huge number of historical press releases. The fact that it has all these press releases in one place is really useful. As organisations and companies change their websites these press releases often go missing — so it’s great from a research perspective to have them collated in one place.
Recently Scoop has run into financial problems (seemingly mostly because of the collapsing market for advertising) and has been repeatedly crowdfunding to stay afloat. It has also been transitioning from a “for-profit” company (although losing money) to a non-profit member organisation. Part of this shift involves the Scoop Foundation offering grants for investigate journalism.
Scoop has also introduced what it calls an “ethical paywall”. Basically if you’re a commercial user Scoop expects you to pay for using the website, although there’s no actual paywall stopping you from looking at the content. This strategy seems to have been pretty successful based on the number of organisations paying for a licence.
The website is terrible!
If you go to Scoop.co.nz you’ll see straight away that it has a terrible website. (It’s straight out of the mid 2000s. In fact if you look at a 2006 version of the site, it doesn’t look that different.) There’s far too much going on — too many columns of different content and an overly comprehensive navigation system at the top.
I know Scoop is well aware of this website problem. They have taken the good step of introducing a beta mobile website, but the main website remains seemingly frozen in time.
[Update 13 May — see bottom of the post for details of the new website]
Continue reading “The future of Scoop.co.nz”
The night before last I was sitting down at my computer browsing the Internet and tweetdeck and my stream was filled up with posts from @patlaw about #awaresg. If you haven’t heard about it, a Christian fundamentalist group hijacked a women’s rights group in Singapore called ‘AWARE‘ by flooding the AGM with new members and purged the organisation of it’s old members. The night I was reading @patlaw’s tweets she was at a meeting where a couple of thousand people had turned up to pass a vote of no confidence and get rid of the new executive who weren’t acting in AWARE’s best interests. It was fascinating reading her tweets and witnessing in New Zealand what was happening in Singapore instantaneously. It almost felt like I was in the room with all those people. Then I discovered Twitterfall, a service like live search except that you don’t have to refresh the page. You just simply enter in a search term and the tweets come rolling in. I was able to read what everyone on twitter was saying about AWARE by entering in a search term for #awaresg. People were hungry, worried about their cars being ticketed, angry that the new exec had spent $90,000 in the few days they had been in power, and most of all people were fed up with waiting for the votes of no confidence to be counted.
#awaresg at that time was a trending topic, so there were a lot people twittering about it, and it struck me that Twitter is an amazing and revolutionary tool for communicating in real time about events unfolding. The very fact that I was able to read all these tweets as they were written, and almost felt like I was in the room myself was an amazing thing. Those people in room taking the time to Twitter were sharing the event with people around the world instantly. This was citizen journalism, ordinary people sharing their experiences of an event in a way so much more relevant and powerful than if it had arrived at my computer through the traditional channels of media. I’m not saying Twitter is a replacement for traditional media, a well researched piece of journalism is invaluable, but rather a complementary tool which can offer more up to date information and from the perspective of people that are in the midst of it all. Eventually the vote of no confidence passed and hundreds of tweets erupted in an exclamation of victory. I went to bed, amazed and excited that I could feel so connected with an event so far away.