Is Amazon reading this blog?

On Monday I wrote about the future of libraries, and how digital sharing and sampling are legally enabled either by open works (Public Domain or Creative Commons), or that retailers will have a vested interest in allowing sampling.

And on Tuesday, Amazon announced their ‘Kindle for the Web’, which allows eBook sampling and embedded excerpts on the web. You’ll be able to read the first chapter of books for free, and share via Facebook, Twitter and email. Plus there will be referral fees in the usual Amazon way if people buy books after seeing a preview on your site.

It makes total sense for Amazon to use the same model which has served them well to build the retail business – leverage a long tail of website publishers and social network users who can be rewarded in a small financial way if their recommendations result in sales.

I’m already looking forward to using it – not only will it enable me to share more of writing I recommend than fair use tends to allow, but imagine the boost to time spent on my site if you’re going through a whole chapter while you’re here! Now which tech books have the longest first chapter?

Not writing about not comparing print and online audiences…

I had an amazing response to my previous post, ‘Why it’s dangerous to compare print figures to website stats‘, including a good follow up post by Martin Belam, the invitation to repost and start contributing to the Online Journalism Blog, great comments from Dave, Neil and Andrew, and most impressively, Martin Lengeveld updated his original post with a link and details of my post.

Inspired by all of this, I’ve decided to take the undoubtedly risky approach of not only poking holes in the arguments of others, but to try and maybe answer some of them – but that proved more difficult than expected, (partly due to the epic victory of Chelsea in the Champions League game vs Liverpool last night)

Initially I started brainstorming measures that could be broadly equivalent with some work – could the effort of walking to a shop and paying for a print copy be judged equivalent to reading a website? Commenting? Subscribing via RSS?

But then I got hit by a far more fundamental question.

Why are we trying to compare print readers and online readers in the first place?

And it’s a serious question.

Because if you run a publishing business, you’re going to make judgements about print and online on revenue. And scale in both mediums is a byproduct of an advertising model based on number of eyeballs, usually within a target location/demographic, or from being able to attract flat rate advertisers by being able to claim the largest readership.

The actual scale itself doesn’t matter once we’re in the same ballpark and seeing trends in readership over a reasonable period?

Or am I missing something?

Or are we trying to find figures to justify editorial or marketing resource? Or refocus online media commentary?

Only when the reason for the measurement is clear is it going to be possible to try and devise a method for comparing ‘domestic print apples and global multimedia organges’ (quoting Mr Belam).

I’m actually heading off to a Twitter-based event called Aperitweat tonight, organised by good friend @tojulius, so I’m hoping great food and conversation will fuel something closer to a conclusion rather than more questions! (Apparently you can watch the event live on Ustream– I’ll be the scruffy one…)

And I’m also hoping to keep the brilliant contributions coming from Dave, Neil, Andrew, Paul Bradshaw and maybe Martin himself to produce something from my hopefully constructive criticism – and if not, perhaps just an agreement to never compare print and online audiences directly again?

Help to complete the list of Web 2.0 Rock Stars

If you’re on the following (subjective) list of Web 2.0 Rockstars which I’m compiling with my colleague David Cushman for publication on, or you know one of the nominees, then could you email me a portrait photo? If not, you might find yourself represented by a blank space, a hastily-drawn cartoon, or similar!

The list itself will open for voting very shortly, once the images have all been uploaded:

That’s as close to the final list as possible – although if there’s a glaring omission and you can make a case for it and email me a picture asap, there’s still a chance for inclusion. Email the pictures to daniel dot thornton at and please be aware they’ll be appearing as a list on

If you want a busy homepage, let your users organise it

My interest in web design is generally based on usability and accessibility, due to the fact I’m not the most artistic person in the world. I can appreciate attractive designs, but there are far better people than me in the world at creating them.

But something has struck me that I think could be a good rule for web architecture and design, based on my own experience of website redesigns, and trying to cram an awful lot of information onto a homepage in the fear that if it doesn’t appear, no-one will ever see it or find it. So here it is:

If you’re forcing homepage contents on your users keep it simple. If you want it to be cluttered, let your users pick how they organise it – or what it on it.

This is backed up by a few examples. For instance, Google is the oft-quoted archetypal example of a very simple homepage. And one that could make more money for the company if it was covered in banner ads – but that would wreck the essence of it’s success.

Meanwhile users can be overwhelmed by busy homepages – but when was the last time you saw an empty Facebook or Myspace profile, or an empty Netvibes page? Users are happy to have a cluttered page, as long as they’ve been able to create and organise the clutter – just the same as people are happy to work at a cluttered desk if they’ve worked out the clutter themselves.

The recent BBC homepage redesign is a good example of moving in this direction -without hopefully overwhelming too many users. Personally I was disappointed it’s still a walled silo of BBC content only – but it’s a start.The Google homepage - keeping it simple

An example Netvibes page created by a user