So says Rich Barton, founder or co-founder of Expedia, Zillow and Glassdoor.com, in Kevin Maney’s article “The Rating Game” in the July/August issue of The Atlantic.
Maney points out that not only do “one-third of all American Internet users rated something online,” but also that “the proliferation in ratings is already changing societal dynamics.”
The story was a reminder that:
- Ratings and comments are essential to have on everything in a news organization’s collection of sites, even if it’s just a simple “like this” rating (e.g., “89 people like this story”).
- News orgs must candidly assess their standing vs. niche competitors such as TripAdvisor, Yelp and local news blogs. I’m still seeing news orgs comparing themselves only against their own kind, e.g., daily newspapers vs. weeklies and magazines. And it’s interesting – sad? – that Maney’s article doesn’t use a single news org in its examples.
- With comments, it’s all about the quality of the comments and the contributors, not the quantity. This means defining and measuring success will be labor-intensive and and relatively subjective.
- To be truly usable, attitudinal surveys must be highly targeted by category and cover both current and non-users. I mourn the money and time wasted by those “market studies” that focus mostly on the news org and its position in a broad geographic region rather than the current and potential audiences for specific niches.Surveys should not only ask where people are going for information to make decisions but also where they submit ratings and comments, and how often. What a person reads vs. what he rates vs. what he comments on will differ by topic.