When Will They Ever Learn? Continued Web Stupidity

by Carla Schroder

There is an assumption that businesspeople are smart, and the bigger the business, the smarter they are. This is so not true as has been demonstrated time and again, and in this particular rant, as demonstrated by the New York Times.

I was surfing Salon.com, and being a cheapskate, I used the "Free Day Pass." Watch an ad, then enter the site. Not a bad deal, and one of their main advertisers is my favorite bookstore, Powell's. So I often click on the ad and purchase too many books. Today's ad was an offer to receive a downloadable edition of the New York Times. It has the same look and page layout as the printed version. You can download it to read offline at your leisure, and have it delivered every day like a "real" newspaper. That sounded like a cool deal, so I clicked on the ad to give it a try.

It took a fair bit of digging to find out that it requires Windows and Internet Explorer. This is not mentioned up front- in fact they take pains to make it sound like it works on any PC. You may read it in Netscape, but the reader software requires IE .dlls.

Why are businesses so extremely clueless when it comes to computers? The same managers that argue over the price of paper clips and Post-Its blithely sign software "licensing" agreements that cost them gazillions, and give "permission" for invasive "license audits" that they must pay for, and they don't even get a warranty or assumption of any kind of vendor responsibility in return. This particular deal must have been expensive to develop and implement- you'd think someone would ask, before they spent all kinds of money, if it would work for everyone just like a printed newspaper?

There is no shortage of cross-platform data formats. The whole point of the Web is universal availability. The New York Times (or any other business), by requiring the customer to use Windows/Internet Explorer demonstrates that:

1. They have a callous and inexcusible disregard for their customer's PC security

2. They have zero concern for the users of other computing platforms. Yeah, we've all heard that "Windows owns 95% of the desktop PCs. " I do not believe it. Linux and Apple alone account for far more than 5% of desktop users. My own guesstimate is at least 10%, and outside the US it's a lot higher. And it's pointless to exclude anyone in any case (see "no shortage of cross-platform data formats," above.)

My money goes to businesses who don't require the use of the most insecure computing platform on the planet, and who do not erect barriers to my being a customer.


2004-10-29 20:57:37
try this URL to see the NYTimes ad
2004-10-29 20:59:52
try this URL to see the NYTimes ad
speaking of stupidity, my apologies for the long URL forcing horizontal scrolling. :( Try the Print view to make it more readable.
2004-10-29 21:22:29
try this URL to see the NYTimes ad
This was the first I had heard of this service being offered by the NYT. When I lived in New York I subscribed to the print version, but now that I live in the Midwest home delivery is exhorbitantly priced, so I was very interested in the possibility of subscribing to an equivalent digital version.

Unfortunately, as an OS X, Linux, and Solaris user at home it seems that this option is unavailable to me. That's disappointing enough, but it was particularly frustrating to click through several pages of click through flash, obtrusive audio, and finally a pop-up window, only to be told that there is no version of "the NewsStand Reader" available for my operating system (I tried on OS X).

The "Special Suggestion to Mac users" to use the NewsStand Reader through (Microsoft) Virtual PC is a very unappealing option to me. I'm just not interested in running Windows on my home computers - particularly not my Mac. Even if I did have a Windows machine at home, I was totally turned off by all the hoop-jumping and would not have bothered going to another machine to subscribe to such a service when there are plenty of other digital news services. Businesses that want my patronage will not get it by making the me go out of my way to give it to them.