Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Most Infuriating Website You'll Visit Today

For years, the Today Show website has been my white whale, my archenemy.

Whenever I've seen something on the show I wanted to learn more about, I followed the on-air advice to head to today.msnbc.com. And when I got there, I found the most disorganized mess I'd ever seen. Stories from today, stories from last week, stories from a month ago, promotions that had long since ended, ads-after-ads-after-ads, Ann Curry's every-two-months blog, some links to things that God-knows-who cares about...

Everything except what I wanted.

And we're not talking about esoteric info. If they do a series of product demos, shouldn't there be product info somewhere? If they do author interviews, shouldn't there be a list of book links? If they report on a website, shouldn't the link appear somewhere?

Shouldn't there be one page, somewhere on the Today website, that lets you click on "Wednesday" and get a rundown of headlines of features from that day's shows? In other words, show notes? Like every podcast done in someone's basement somehow manages to do?

Anyway, it's been a burr under my saddle for a while. So imagine my delight when Today started flogging their brand new website, todayshow.com! A new address, a new design, "one of the newest innovations"...

Fantastic! I'll check it out...

D'oh! It's the same site!!

Literally.

Type in todayshow.com and you are redirected to the old today.msnbc.com site, only it's salmony-orange now instead of blue. I guess that's the iVillage influence.

Still, ever the optimist, I actually looked for a story I was interested in learning more about. It was a Bob Dotson profile of a woman who risked her life rescuing Jewish babies from the Nazis, and the high school kids in Kansas who discovered her story.

Was it on the main page? No. What if I click on Wednesday? No, I don't know what that did. Search for "Kansas" and "Nazis"? Lots of unrelated stories from other shows, but no luck. What if I add "Bob Dotson"? Now the search turns up no results.

I was ready to give up. Then I saw the umpteenth promo for the website on the show, and they showed a page of the site with the headline "Life in a Jar." I thought this might be paydirt (the extraordinarily brave woman in the story placed the babies with Catholic families, but buried their real names in a jar for after the war.)

So, having seen on TV that the site had the words "Life in a Jar" I searched for the words "Life in a Jar."

And found something about food safety. Aw, come on!

By now I was obsessed. So I froze the frame on the TV and typed in the URL they were showing, which for some reason included the word "allday."

Of course! Why didn't I just randomly type in words involving "day" in the first place?

thisday.msnbc.msn.com, oneday.msnbc.msn.com, goodday.msnbc.msn.com, saintcrispinsday.msnbc.msn.com... Let's all just quit our jobs now and start typing in random words, hoping to find NBC's web content.

Anyway, having frozen the screen and uncovered the URL and followed the map on the back of the Declaration of Independence I had apparently fulfilled all the steps necessary to earn the Easter Egg: there was the "Life in a Jar..." article. Turns out it was a blog post by the producer of the piece... or something.

Okay, I was getting closer.

Within the blog post was a link to video of the piece. Huzzah! Not the "more information" I was looking for, but by now I was grateful for any confirmation that I hadn't imagined the whole thing.

So my advice to you, if you watch Today, is not to go to the website, but instead to simply hope they show the page you're interested in onscreen, and that it's clear enough to make out the URL if they do.

That's a super-useful web design, isn't it?


- - - - -

UPDATE: 9:58 AM

Since I wrote this, they have added the following link to the main page.


If you can decipher the headline "Hiding in history's shadows" please let me know. Still, the microscopic picture of kids in period costume might have helped me in my search... if I had seen it, and if it had it been posted within an hour or two of the story's airing. Still, can a brother get show notes and a working search?

7 comments:

Sydelle Pearl said...

The good news is that this particular irritation only represents 0.00000375% of the annoying things about The Today Show, TodayShow.com and/or Ann Curry. (I've not included the following on-air personnel in this calculation: Gene Shalit, Jamie Gangel, Chris Hansen, Keith Morrison or David Zinczenko).

peeky said...

Today Ann Curry interviewed a fireman who rescued a dog--Pearl, who fell thru the ice chasing ducks and was pulled out by a fireman. It was a sweet story but Ann kept trying to turn it into the The Biggest and Most Dramatic Story Ever Told. "That must've really been extremely grueling!!!!" she exclaimed to the fireman, who basically replied, "no, not when you're trained to be a fireman."

gina said...

That is so frustrating, Mike!

You know what else I hate? The fact that about one half of all of CNN.com's front page headlines are video-only. What the? I mean, if I wanted to watch the news, I'd watch the news.

Besides, I can't very well be watching CNN video when I'm supposed to working, can I?

Michael Markowitz said...

Sydelle, Gene is SO irritating. He is a perfect example of what's wrong with the movie criticism system. If there's, say, an Adam Sandler movie, why on Earth have Gene Shalit review it? He's not going to like it. And who cares, since he's not the target audience.

And he's also a perfect example of the other two things that critics need to stop doing: giving away key plot points and making the review all about THEM and how clever they are.

As for Keith Morrison, those of us who remember him as a local anchor can only look at him today and wonder what kind of evil force sucked all the Keith out of that brittle husk. And why is he trying to out-Ted-Baxter Chris Hanson? When we all know even Stone Phillips can't out-Ted-Baxter Chris.

peeky, before Ann Curry I never knew a news anchor could be a ham.

Gina, tell your sis I know what she should get you for Xmas: a bluetooth adapter for your office computer. Then just slip in a tiny earpiece, like a blueant X3, and in no time you'll be having a secret WolfBlitzgasm.

(Oh and also tell your sister "Shaaaaark!" and "Don't let him go into shock!!")

Hans said...

That is a great comment on The Today Show. This is partly why we created The Today Show viewers homepage, an independent viewers home page for The Today Show. In the forum viewers can help each other with more information.

Would you please repost your entire piece on The Today Show forum for everyone there to see?

Thank you. :)

http://www-todayshow.com
http://www.todaytop.com

Michael Markowitz said...

Done and done. Thanks, Hans, for listening to the vox populi.

And don't tell Gene and Ann what we said about them. :-)

Sydelle Pearl said...

Just thought you should know that the Today Show did a whole piece this morning on how great their new website is.
Also, I hope you appreciate that I haven't even brought up Jill Rappaport yet.