Why we shouldn’t just listen to the user

Duncan Stephen
Wednesday 30 July 2014

Why audiences hate hard news – and love pretending otherwise

Here is a lesson from the Atlantic as to why you cannot simply ask users what they want from a website. People lie about – or do not truly know – what they want. They say they want vegetables, but they actually eat sweets. The same goes for the content users look for on websites.

If we merely asked what you wanted, without measuring what you wanted, you’d just keep lying to us—and to yourself…

Audiences are liars, and the media organizations who listen to them without measuring them are dupes. At the Aspen Ideas Festival last year, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera America, shared survey data suggesting that 40 to 50 million people were desperate for in-depth and original TV journalism. Nine months later, it averaged 10,000 viewers per hour—1.08 percent of Fox News’ audience and 3.7 percent of CNN. AJAM, built for an audience of vegetarians, is stuck with a broccoli stand in a candy shop.

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