Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not represented as fact|
Earlier this week, NewsTalk ZB, slipped its
new website onto the Net.
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
Given that so many Net users are compulsive addicts of chat-rooms,
newsgroups and mailing list-based discussions, Newstalk ZB's
arrival is perhaps more significant than it might first appear.
This site has been an awfully long time coming and I could never
figure out why the broadcaster hadn't already tapped into the
growing Internet audience.
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So just how good a job have they done of bringing talk radio to the Net?
Well it's surely a whole lot better than competitor
Radio Pacific's site.
Since I'm getting tired of pointing out the growing list of sites that
balk at my Netscape 4.x browser, I won't mention the incompatibilities
I found -- but take it as read that there are some.
My initial impressions are that this site is pretty damned good.
The designers have kept the layout pretty clean, fairly light on
unnecessary graphics and, most importantly, it's loaded with good information.
If you're looking for a soundbyte-sized summary of national news (just the thing
to stimulate discussion), the site's front page has a handful of headlines
near the bottom which deliver a brief story in a pop-up window. Given that
the page seems to load quite quickly, and (I assume) these stories are updated
at least hourly, it might be one of the most painless places to get your
Of course the essential streaming audio facility is there so that you can listen
live to the station's radio broadcast -- although I couldn't get it to work
with either IE or Netscape -- despite downloading the very latest version of
Microsoft's media player. In this regard the site is simply too smart.
I hate sites (like NZoom
and others which feel it necessary to embed their media players in small pop-up
windows with lots of other "pretty" -- but useless dross.
What's wrong with offering a "raw" link that pops up the familiar media-player or
Realplayer itself -- thus allowing the use of a familiar interface and greater
control over its operation?
One really cool feature of the site is the ability to listen to archived
material from the week. Well it would be cool if that material was there.
Unfortunately I kept getting "HTTP Error 400 -- Bad Request" errors when
I tried to access some stuff from earlier this week. Maybe it's simply
that the archives don't go back that far -- but a more friendly message
might be nice.
In keeping with the theme of user-generated discussion on which talkback
radio was founded, there is an
-- but it seems decidedly lacking in support -- seemingly attracting only
two or three messages per day.
So, in summary, this site is quite nicely designed and has huge potential
to bridge the gap between online and broadcast audiences -- but it still
needs some attention to detail.
It will be very interesting to see (and easy to gauge by monitoring the
"debate board") just how many of the station's listeners and callers are also
avid Internet users.
I suspect it might be a good idea to focus on some issues close to the heart
of the Net audience if they're going to kick-start more interest in the website.
Some online promotion might help too. Chances are that many Net users are
quite happy using usenet and existing online discussion forums. They're
going to have to be enticed away from these by some pretty smart marketing
and an awareness campaign.
How long before "hello, I'm a first time poster..." becomes a common
intro to messages posted to the Newstalk ZB website I wonder?
I wonder if the guys at Newstalk ZB have read idea number three on my
Million Dollar Ideas page? If not, they
ought to do so and drop me a line -- I've got something which is right
up their alley.
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