Your attention, Please
The redesigned CACM Web site will deliver exactly what you want.
HOW DO YOU grab a nd hold
someone’s attention? Strategies vary. While polite interjections and attentive
gazes work in some circles,
they are ineffective on the Internet,
where Web sites employ a host of in-your-face, lapel-grabbing techniques
in the war for eyeballs.
We’re in the middle of redesigning
Communications’ Web site. The plan
is to make cacm.acm.org as engaging
and as awesome as a summer fireworks
display, but without the noise. The new
site won’t be ready for months, but it’s
safe to say it will include some long-overdue content, notably news, but will
mostly muffle the raised-voice techniques commonly shouted by popular
sites, and will avoid these tactics spotted in the last 24 hours (where noted).
There will be no blood ( NYtimes.com),
no fires ( CNN.com), no violence (
wash-ingtonpost.com), and no Paris Hilton
( youtube.com). What’s left?
Plenty. “Journalism is so much
more than blood and sex,” says Erica
Stone, the fictional professor played by
Doris Day in Teacher’s Pet, a 1958 film
that is both old fashioned and surprisingly fresh. “Your friend’s kind of reporting went out with Prohibition,”
Day tells one of her night-school students, a seasoned newspaper editor
played by Clark Gable. “TV and radio
announce spot news minutes after it
happens. Newspapers can’t compete
in reporting what happened anymore.
But they can and should tell the public
why it happened. Ask anybody. You’ll
find that today the average man wants
to know why.”
The scene is funny not because Day
is perky, smart, and slightly oblivious
(which she is), or because Gable is
playing his archetype—the smirking,
worldly, leering male (which he is). It’s
because adding “the Internet” to Professor Stone’s roster of fast media has
her delivering word-for-word the same
lecture that newspaper publishers
humbled by the Internet are repeating
50 years later. That’s less astonishing
foresight than an assertion of the ongoing need for change amidst increasing competition for readers’ attention,
whatever the media du jour.
This redesigned edition attests to
that need for change; the upcoming
Web site will do the same. Both will
hold your attention by providing engaging, interesting, and meaningful
content. Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee recently told BBC News that the
Web is “still in its infancy.” Created
“by so many people collaborating
across the globe,” the world has “only
started to explore the possibilities of
[the Web].” That spirit of openness,
collaboration, and creativity informs
the redesign of Communications’ site.
It will provide more than what you see
in the magazine, and will have you
coming back for more.
No change is being made for change’s
sake. Every addition, every feature, every design decision is being bounced
off ACM members to make sure it
meets your needs and interests. The
site will serve a rich menu of content
that’s been taste-tested by members
through focus groups, one-on-one in-
terviews, and surveys. If this doesn’t
sound like what the doctor ordered,
it’s not. It’s what you ordered.
“If it has good content, I don’t care”
if it’s in news, blog, or video format,
said one surveyed member. “Content
trumps all,” said another.
The site will present traditional
Communications fare plus other computing
stories. Development is still in flux, but
the site is likely to publish opinion and
commentary from readers and invited
experts to explain the importance or
significance of a work. “Some editorial guidance would be most useful to
help readers understand the relevance
of and keep updated on the newest
research,” one member said. “Reader
discussion and commentary [are im-portant],” another said, “because in
the computer world, there is so much
to be talked about. People must bounce
ideas off of one another in order to get
some kind of understanding and general consensus on anything which has
any importance.” Roger that.
Advertising is also on the menu.
The vast majority of members, 93%,
are open to or unruffled by ads on the
site. That’s an endorsement of ACM’s
strategy to find revenue to expand the
range of services available to members
and non-members alike. “Google makes
a lot of money out of (relevant) ads,” one
member said. “They are ok for me. You
should consider generating revenue
Nothing will get onto the site before
it gets a thumbs up from members. To
that end, ACM is still asking for input
and will continue to do so until the site
launches, probably in early 2009. It’s
all being done with an eye on holding
your attention by delivering what you
want. If you have opinions about the
redesign that you’d like to share, go to
Thanks for your attention.
David Roman ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
is Communications’ Web Editor.