Thanks to everyone, all 437 of you, who responded to our reader survey last week. I wanted to share some of the results.
Even though you all read news from the web, obviously, 39% of you reported you still get news from physical media like newspaper and magazines. That’s not really a lot and sheds some light on why print media is in the doldrums. But 33% of you get news from podcasts and radio as well.
84% of you like the site to keep up on news of the weird and odd. 61% do it for the entertainment value (even though all the stories are not so uplifting).
This is the part that disturbs me a bit. The 22% of you that read the entire story off the RSS feed and the 4% off the skeptic.com feed are missing out on the comments. A major goal of the site is to spark discussion and provide additional information about the news story. I understand that many of you AVOID reading comments to blog posts because they are pointless or nasty. But, the comment environment is different here. We are trying to keep that stuff to a minimum with a strong moderation policy and a goal to make the comments ADD to the story, not turn it into another topic entirely. For many stories, there was much to learn from the comments – like when people in the story visited the site to have their say, when corrections were made to the story, or when additional and important clarifications were provided.
I urge those who view external feeds to come see the original post of a story you are interested in and read the comments. Now that we are asking for MORE comment input, I hope you will visit the original post more often and contribute your knowledge.
We use satellite sites, such as Skeptic.com, to distribute widely and attract a new audience. If you are a regular reader, make sure your RSS feed or Twitter feed is accessing the Doubtful News feed directly. Please do not link to skeptic.com posts but come to the original site at doubtfulnews.com.
I’m sorry that due to severe time and internet access constraints during the day, I can’t respond to comments that show up on these other outlets (Facebook, skeptic.com, tumblr or Google+). I have even ceased maintaining the Google+ page because it is not easy to feed the link in there automatically. Comments ideally should be collected under the original post on the main site.
The survey questions included your opinions on what kinds of stories you liked and disliked. Not surprisingly “science” was the number one category. Nearly all our stories have some science component to them and we base our framing of the story on what science already tells us about the world. We don’t often do straight science stories nor will we in the future. Why? Because there are already sites that do that better. And those kinds of stories aren’t really “doubtful”. But we still cover the anti-science and pseudoscience topics in the news which are popular categories.
The like/dislike votes told us to go easy on the UFOs, cryptozoology and conspiracy stories. Those stories will still appear because they may attract an audience that hasn’t visited the site before, but we will continue to be selective about which to include. We feel we already are careful (and make a point to not include links from less reputable tabloid or mystery-mongering sites) but occasionally these types of stories are interesting or make widespread news and we include them.
The commentary we include on the site is a fine line to walk. As expected, some of you wish for more hard-hitting skepticism. Others want it to be totally neutral. I can’t really win but since a bit is coming from both sides (most surveyed were happy with it), I think the commentary is where I want it to be. There are some subjects for which my neutrality is out the window. There is CLEAR science on global warming, the necessity of vaccinations and the ridiculousness of homeopathy. I can’t ethically compromise on those things because, as a science-based site, the science is unequivocal. It is what it is.
I know some don’t like the site because they feel like I “censor” opposing views. I really don’t. I remove misleading information. If you have links to share, and are civil, I will leave them there for discussion. But once again, don’t tell me I’m an idiot and wrong or try to pepper the comment thread with propaganda links. You are up against established knowledge, beyond this little site here, and I will not give you a platform.
Regarding the site look and feel, we will be trying a new template soon. It will still look like a newspaper and keep the clean and uncluttered feel. It won’t be flashy. Because we don’t have a designated person for the website design, we have to rely on templates and are limited in what we can do with the code and what it gives us by default. We try our best to add in features you’d like to see. So, if you have any WordPress ideas that can help, let us know. The goal is to make the site scannable and understandable, as best we can.
Some of you would prefer more photos. We’ve tried to add in more but it takes far more time to locate and include pics and there is also a copyright concern for their use.
There were a few comments regarding confusing author’s commentary to the piece or quotes. The point of the site is to put the news in context. So, you should read the original media piece PRIOR to commenting. Then it will make sense. This is a news feed, not a site that employs actual journalists. So, we have limitations. And, I will not reproduce the entire referenced news article. (That’s not ethical without permission and I don’t have time to request permission. Click the link provided to the story.)
I’m also sorry I can’t provide a podcast, iphone app, more gloss or additional content. While that would be nice, that takes more time and money than is currently on hand. I remind readers that skeptical activists usually have to maintain other day jobs. (Insert imaginary sad face emoticon here.) We are doing the best we can. (You can help!)
In conclusion, thanks again to all who volunteered their comments. Much appreciation goes out the readers who have given us over a million page views in these past 13 months and donations to expand to better servers. We must be doing something right.
Additional suggestions or comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org