Still waiting for wisdom of the crowds

According to an article on TechCrunch, USAToday’s Social Network Experiment May Not Be Paying Off. Michael Arrington writes that when USAToday relaunched its site in March as a social network around news, he and others thought it was big news. Despite investing in social media technology, monthly visitors have dropped from 14 million in March to 10 million in July (graph at TechCrunch posting) — perhaps news and networking don’t mix, wonders Mr Arrington. These figures did not stop USAToday issuing a press release saying that traffic is way up, mainly due to a feature on The Simpsons movie and an interview with J K Rowling. So it is up to you whether to believe the Comscore data used by TechCrunch, or the press release issued by USAToday quoting Nielsen ratings.

There are 42 comments to the "figures are down" TechCrunch post at time of writing. Everyone concurs about the lack of success, and there are several explanations put forward. One is that USAToday is under pressure from Google, Yahoo and co for news coverage, and cannot meet the competition from local papers. Another is that the big media such as USAToday aren’t trying to meet a real need or build an audience, but are just copycatting (Digg et al). As a commenter to the TechCrunch post says: "My comments on USA Today are meaningless. They add nothing, are seen by very few people, and don’t produce any movement in the earth’s gravitational shift. People want to participate because it makes a difference. If that is not the case, well then who really cares. It’s a novelty that soon wears off." Another view is that USAToday content isn’t good enough for anyone to want to read or comment on it. "I think this was a valiant effort to provide a more interactive user experience to a website whose users have no interest in it."