Right to reply, but no right to network privacy with Newscounter

 by Martin Belam, 4 December 2006

Over the last couple of weeks I've been looking at a site called "Newscounter", which takes articles from the press in the UK, and allows users to vote on which stories they would most like to hear the other side of, hopefully giving individuals and organisations a right to reply which they so seldom get in the mainstream press.


The site is still under development, but seems at the moment to me to be missing a couple of key features. Each day a new front page appears with a splash of different stories, but there seems to be no way to navigate back to yesterday's stories, or those of the day before. And so unless you catch a story on the day of publication, you'll never be able to set it as one of the stories you want to watch.


And therein lies another issue with the information architecture of the site at present - you are able to mark a story as "watched", but there is no central place where you can view all your "watched" stories in order to check on them or unwatch them. Alerts are sent via email, rather than having a URL or RSS feed you can check to see if there are updates in the topics you want to monitor.

As they state, the service is in development, and already over a couple of weeks of visiting the site I have noticed some positive changes. Now the front page articles have a very clear call to action to vote to get a response, and who the response should be from, and are much more enticing than a simply synopsis of the story in question.


They are also putting clips of the responses that have been gathered on the front page as well


However, there is one feature that they have introduced which is likely to stop me visiting the site. On each individual story page they have added a "top referrers" panel, which does an IP look-up and displays where visitors are coming from.


Quite simply, me poking around a beta site about news in the UK from the office in Austria out of interest is not worth the association it now automatically makes with the Sony brand, courtesy of the network I am accessing it from during the day.

Whilst I can understand the principle - that it is interesting for everyone to see if the people involved in the story are visiting the site - personally it makes it too uncomfortable for me to browse the site anymore, when I know I am leaving that kind of branded footprint for everybody else to see.



Thanks for your details comments and your attention to our site.

I'm glad you think some of our recent changes are improving the site.

1. If you click the subject words you get through to the stories going back the last few weeks. I agree that this is obscure so we are addressing this through a re-design

2. We will incorporate the 'stories you are watching' list into the improvements we are looking to make - thank you. Perhaps as a list in the edit profile section for registered users

3. I understand your concern with the top referrers section. The rationale was from a promotion/marketing perspective. However, we will keep this under review. In the meantime, I hope I've taken the necessary steps to ensure that your IP display name won't appear next to new stories.

I'd be grateful to hear any other thoughts your readers may have as to improvements we can make

CEO, newscounter

Nah. The rationale for the 'top referrers' section (misnamed, since it's nothing to do with referrers) is the age-old "I can do it, therefore I will".

I really don't like that: similarly, the Guardian's Comment Is Free site added a local place-of-posting based on my IP address when it first launched; posts from work came from Glasgow. I dinnae want people knowing where I live, y'ken? (Except I don't live there. Or anywhere near. Thank heavens.)

Mind you, anyone that does the blog-search every day for their brand gets a hearty pat on the back from me. I've been doing that for the last year or so: blimey, it's an eye-opener.

Keep up to date on my new blog