From the editor: Here’s what you said about us.

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).

44% of readers regularly visit the homepage. I guess you are our core audience! The rest of you use RSS feeds, the Facebook page or follow via Twitter or another social media interface.

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 editor@doubtfulnews.com

  11 comments for “From the editor: Here’s what you said about us.

  1. Moose McNuggets
    October 4, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    I enjoy your commentaries. Most of your links are to news reports that can be by and large described as neutral, and most times if you post a story that catches my eye, I follow the link. But I come here specifically for the skeptical take on nonsense, so please keep on delivering that to us.

  2. Rich
    October 4, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    “But I come here specifically for the skeptical take on nonsense”

    Yep. Exactly that.

  3. Phil
    October 4, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I did not think to specify in my survey that I started reading this site’s predecessor because I was impressed by Sharon’s research, and the sincere nature of her ongoing engagement with her subject (and subjects!). There are other sites on similar topics, but that voice is unique. I hope it will remain the guiding spirit going forward, even if–and hopefully because–that involves a regular dose of the believers in this stuff, annoying as they can be. I am not at all interested in the tired battle between atheism and religion–except when it entails militant fringe extremists like Westboro undermining education and democracy, of course.

  4. October 4, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    I’ll say that I would want the woo stories to continue here. But I felt a need to not vote for them, in large part because the communities that produce them are so obnoxious.

    So, seeing a story about Bigfoot, is not bad. But having to vote “Cryptozoology” on what I wanted to see makes me feel awful because of the loons and jerks I associate with it. And I’d certainly like the science/history behind such things, ala Monstertalk (I’ve actually had mixed opinions on that show’s recent trajectory, moving more into straight folklore of more obscure monsters. I like it in some ways, in others it starting to seem more catalog-y, less in-depth).

    I think it also boils down to what Doubtful News is. It’s a news site, not an in-depth analysis site. From this perspective, the grind of woo stories gets old. I like reading articles on the history or state of ufology, for example. I never, on the other hand, want to read another news story about a UFO sighting.

    I guess what I’m saying is, DN has always had the mission of being a skeptical alternative to various woo story aggregators (with woo broadly defined, to include alt medicine etc.). I like science, but if I want straight up science, there are tons of places to go for that.

  5. Rich
    October 6, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    The new template looks nice and clean. Is there any way of tweaking it so that we can see the number of comments on a story? (Apologies if this exists, and I can’t see it.)

    • October 6, 2012 at 8:50 AM

      I knew this would be an issue. I am working on that. There are still tweaks to be made.

      • Rich
        October 6, 2012 at 9:52 AM

        Nothing worse than someone helpfully pointing out something you already know. :)

  6. G
    October 6, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    On reading the entire story from the RSS feed:
    I read your site from an RSS feed. Some stories I read entirely there or even skip over because they’re not news to me, or they’re not interesting to me; you know, of course, that everyone has their own interests.

    But when a story is particularly interesting, I read the story there–then I click the link in the RSS feed and come to see what other people have said, see if there are any updates, ask questions, or contribute a bit of a comment myself.

    I think that’s how most people use RSS, really. So don’t be too worried about people reading from RSS feeds and missing commentary; they’re probably going to look here for it if it piques their interest.

    • October 6, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      Thanks for your input. There’s not much I can do but encourage people to come. Cause I sure wouldn’t give up my RSS feed readers either.

      • G
        October 7, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        Hm. When I make a post here, I’ve been clicking “notify me of follow-up comments by email.” That used to work, but I haven’t been getting any for a while. I just came back to check, and I see there are more comments since my last post, and I didn’t get any email.

        Checked my spam folder, nothing there. Using gmail, though, and sometimes things they deem spam do vanish into nothingness…but I’m getting the subscription verification emails right after I post, so I don’t *think* gmail thinks it’s one of those “send it to /dev/null/” kind of spams.

  7. Chris
    October 6, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    Where is the link to the next or previous story? Since you post multiple stories per day, I like being able to click on the one read before and then going to the next story without having to go back to the main page. Thank you.

Comments are closed.