Can We Make Newspaper Articles Shareable & Trackable

While reading an article in today’s ET Brand Equity, I felt like I had to share it with my friends, maybe put it up on LinkedIn with a comment of my own. The thing is, I was reading it on the paper, not the app or the website. And being the lazy person that I am, I would not usually go looking for this article on either of those two, just for sharing it.

But I did want to share this article with my friends, and I looked for ways to do so.
Can We Make Newspaper Articles Shareable & Trackable

Apart from the author’s email address, I could not find anything to go by.

This puts the physical paper and its reader at a disadvantage compared to the app/site & their reader.

The Obvious Way

One obvious way out is to take a picture of the said article, and WhatsApp it to the relevant people. Or tweet it, or share it on Facebook or LinkedIn.

I would have to overcome the hassles of getting a clear picture, each word being clearly captured, the lighting being right, the paper not flying away due to the fan yada yada. At the same time, there is an obvious opportunity that the newspaper company is missing here – in this method they would not know who all has read this piece of content, or even how many people it has reached.

In this day and age of tracking user attention and retargetting, don’t you think that’s a big piece all physical newspapers and magazines are missing out on?

Go Digital

So, I have a proposal for paper publications, who also have a website and/or an app where the same content is published.

Why not simply print the QR code to the link of the content at the beginning or end of the piece?

I got off my lazy behind, and found out what the online home for this particular article is: https://brandequity.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/business-of-brands/huls-secret-recipe-of-success/71401983

A simple QR code leading to this article looks like this:
QR to ET article

But this would take some space to print, wouldn’t it?

This is where a URL shortener service like bit.ly comes in handy. Not only can the URL be shortened to something like 20-25 characters, they provide tracking data as well. This is how a bit.ly version of the same link looks:
QR to bit.ly to ET article

And a crude representation of how it could look on the same article:
Can We Make Newspaper Articles Shareable & Trackable
It doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it is scannable – try it out!

I am sure the designers at these papers would find a way to make it look way more attractive than this.

With this small addition to every piece of content in a paper, I am sure sharing and adoption of the online versions would also take off. Meanwhile, knowing that I can share content I would definitely be more open to reading the physical paper, since reading something like Brand Equity is not only driven by updating my knowledge about the industry, but also about finding shareable content for this blog and my LinkedIn feed.

Wasn’t just Gilchrist?

While millions of cricket lovers were rejoicing the Deccan Chargers’ win last Sunday, little did they know that their joy is not really due to Adam Gilchrist, or any of the other 10 Hyderabad players, but the “real reason” DC won is because of “water flowing in front of [Deccan Chronicle’s shops & offices]”.

Says who? Says Business Standard. Or someone who has just posted there. I can’t see any name (of a writer or a reader who might have posted this as an opinion). Just that it is under “Opinions & Analysis”. “[T]hose who know these things” they say…. Can anyone tell me what these “things” are? Is the writer of the piece so afraid to bring up names like “Vaastu” and “Feng Shui”, lest they be labelled as un-modern?

Feeling WTF? Of course I am. Last I checked, Business Standard was a business periodical, not an occult evangelist magazine.

Update:
Thank you Pallavi for enlightening me about the “Chinese Whispers” column in Business Standard, which is a satirical piece in the otherwise serious business daily. I’m sorry if anyone from BS or its readers/fans were upset with what I wrote. But then, there is one observation about the web version of the paper. The page’s contents do come across as genuine, and to read them as satire, one needs to be a Business Standard regular. Maybe something can be done there so people like me are not misled into believing that the paper actually endorses the views on the page.

Smart Web – How Smart?

While reading this Rediff.com story about Maruti Madhavrao Phad, a Maharashtra government employee who got injured during the recent terrorist attack on Bombay, I noticed something.

It is not related to the story as such. If you scroll down to the end of the story you’ll see the credits for is particular story. It reads “Image: Maruti [Get Quote] Madhavrao Phad at his home. Text: A Ganesh [Images] Nadar. Photograph: Uttam Ghosh


See the screenshot of the line. Notice the yellow areas? These are smart tags which apparently the engine parsing the code of the pages inserts to “enrich” the user’s browsing experience, by providing additional information related to the content the user is browsing through at the moment.

Note the word “related”? Now see what the yellow highlights in the image show. “Get Quote” for Maruti. Here Maruti is the first name of the hero of the story, not the name of a car-making company. Yet, the Rediff engine treats it as the company’s name, and is offering you stock quotes for it. And for Ganesh, the link is a Rediff search link with the string “Ganesh” – marked “Images”. Which means that it would return images of the Lord Ganesha, and other celebrities called “Ganesh”. Not images of the author of the article in this case, A Ganesh Nadar.

And both these tags are intrusive, they not only break the text they are placed in, they break proper names of people. Intrusive and irreverent. Considering the tone of the article, even more so.

Were they really necessary?

Published… not quite :)

klueLESS gets an article in The Economic Times on Nov 21.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Features/LiveITUP/Unravel_the_Klued_In_code/articleshow/msid-3738933,curpg-1.cms

The game does not need recognition like this… since it has got its own recognition its own way – the current version is the fourth avatar of the game, but well, for an old-timer like me, seeing the name of something I created in ET is big news.

And then I’d like to thank Chandoo for the awesome name. After three years, only his contribution is constant, the content of the game changes with every avatar 🙂

Oh, and the not quite part. Understandably, the article is about klueLESS 4 mainly, so none of the original team gets mentioned. Big deal 🙂

Please provide a what???

A Calcuttan missing his hometown opens up the website belonging to the most read newspaper in that town. Pleased with what he saw, he clicked on one of the sections of the e-paper. The site tells him that he needs to be registered in order to go deeper into the contents. No problem. He is ready to register. So he clicks on register and fills up a form. Presses Submit. And see what he gets:

Email ID? The form does not mention email ID anywhere, let alone ask for it. Oh, the error page tells him that the “Username” field should have been populated with his email ID.

Who would have thought? 🙂

If you were that person, would you fill up that form again and continue to use the website? I didn’t. Who knows what other ‘mistake’ I would be chided for next? Is the phone number field actually supposed to contain my height?

Is it so difficult for web designers and companies that hire them to make websites that are free of inconsistencies and are helpful instead of carrying the old ’80-90s attitude of “I made this thing and it works at my end. You need to learn how to make it work for you if you want to use it.”?

It is all adding up to the user experience and thus the brand in the end.