December’s talking points and feedback

Posted by Dom

December 2007 was overshadowed by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Our special report on the events surrounding the tragic day got you talking, with the messageboard thread in our News Channel now up to 103 pages and 1,235 messages.

Here’s a look back at what issues and topics encouraged you to get clicking or get in touch this month.

What got you clicking

The top 5 most popular headlines on the homepage:

1) Marc arrested after Cerys date
2) Uncovered: the grim reality of life in the world’s most toxic towns
3) Thousands of mourners wept and beat their heads in grief as the body of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s slain former prime minister, was carried out of her ancestral home on her funeral procession
4) Corrie Christmas climax leaked
5) Exposed: five of the biggest exercise lies

So the usual mixture of entertainment and news-related items there… the piece on exercise lies probably did so well due to its publication timing, on Saturday 29 December – just when the food and drink excesses over Christmas really start to hit home!

Here’s where we went wrong during the month.

Complaints, mistakes and gripes from December

The month kicked off inauspiciously with some Avril Lavigne controversy. Our homepage promotion of an exclusive to MSN Avril concert offended many of you by referring to her as ‘America’s lead siren of sassy songwriting’. This comment was typical of the feedback on the issue: ‘Your blurb about Avril was shocking. You stated that Avril is American, she is in fact Canadian, coming from a small town close to Kingston ON. And while Canada is in North America, I can assure you that Canadians have a different Parliament, different political ideals and most certainly should be recognised for its talent that it provides to the world stage’. ‘Such ignorant mix-ups are offensive to Canadians – we are not "America", we are a separate country’ added another user. Our apologies for the mistake.  

The MSN UK homepage turned red on December 1st as well, to mark World Aids Day. The reasons for this are discussed here. It’s fair to say opinion on the move was mixed. ‘So the page is red for World Aids Day. Are you going to turn the page different colours for all the different awareness days, or is it just HIV/AIDS that Microsoft believes is worthy enough to make a token gesture for? Pathetic’, wrote one correspondent. Others were just not aware why their page had turned red in the first place, so maybe we could signpost any similar moves in the future more clearly.  

Dr Dre’s real name is Andre Young, not Angus Young, corrected one reader early in the month – thanks for the heads up.

Grammatical and spelling errors often get your backs up, unsurprisingly. Mistakes do slip through the net, such as this unfortunate blooper brought to light by one email: ‘One of your journalists/writers talked about serial killers having flare, rather than flair, during a piece about movie killers. It’s a small thing, you know, the minor differences between, say, the 70s and panache, but it just grates when a simple thing like spelling gets in the way of an otherwise fine web page. Typos I can love wieth, evben though yuo’ve got subs to soert those surely (sic, presumably – Ed) but spelling words wrongly is just poor journalism. When they’re employed as writers, particularly on the world wide web, your guys should be able to spell, and use the right spelling in the right place. The author can decry this, but itonly takes one word to lose your audience’.

Crossword and Weather problems hit the site during the middle of December – your emails helped alert us to the issues quickly.

‘Why is there no Science, Engineering or Technology news or items of news? Why are no people in these fields featured on the MSN home page? Technology is the backbone of MS (Microsoft?) and there should be heroes and heroines (celebrities if you will) from these fields instead of the inane people who have little or no achievements to their name, except that they are non-celebrities,’ wrote one user. We’d have to take issue with this comment – our Tech and Gadgets section has an excellent Daily News section, which we often promote from the home page, as has been seen in our recent coverage of the CES show in America.

We will keep making sure that our homepage is not dominated with ‘non celebrities’, however, during 2008 – which will please this reader: ‘Really, why do I care if Lily Allen is going to have a baby? I don’t think that warrants any space whatsoever. How about some news, heaven forbid? And no, I don’t mean what a footballer had for breakfast either!’. In the same vein was this email: ‘Pleeeeeeease stop having pictures of Amy Winehouse ALL the time, I find her annoying and to have to see her in a new news or image item every other day is extremely frustrating!’ 

Microsoft’s Pimp My Live Messenger promotion also drew some feedback: ‘Just clicked on "Pimp My Live" and now it tells me its "Time to get pimping".. Time to go and live off the earnings of a prostitute or brothel…. what on earth are you up to at Microsoft? Wait ’till the US Bible Belt comes across this!’ Another person wrote: ‘Pimp my Live ?? Do you idiots know what pimp means? Using this word as though it is a joke or something. Looks like very limited experience of life to me – anyone who thinks this word is to be taken lightly’. Apologies if anybody is offended by this advertising slogan.

Where did we get it right?

Some people at least did agree with our unique way of highlighting World Aids Day. On this very blog, one user commented that it was ‘a brilliant way of attracting awareness’, whilst another opinion stated: ‘It worked. I did not know either that it was World Aids Day, everyone should be made aware of how many people around the world are infected with HIV, it is the silent disease that everyone tries to ignore, well done.’

Two further general comments brightened our lot in December: ‘Hello! Good site! I’m From Khazahstan! I’m doing well! Thank you!’ (which is hopefully not spam!) and the to-the-point ‘WOULD RECOMMEND THIS PAGE TO ALL MY FRIENDS, GREAT THANK YOU’.

December on the homepage is a frantic time – before we all clocked off on Friday, December 21, we had to make sure that content was programmed in all the way through to Tuesday, 2 Jan, which was no easy task. A group of rota editors then took it in turns to look after the day-to-day running of the site over the festive period – a vital task when news such as Benazir Bhutto’s assassination breaks.

Thanks once again for your comments – and keep them coming. We’ll be aiming to help you through the traditionally miserable month of January with some cracking content promoted from the homepage – and whether we get it right or wrong, please keep letting us know.

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9 Responses to December’s talking points and feedback

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