Customer Satisfaction in News Sites Mismatched with Ad Spend

Online news readership continues to take audiences from television and newspapers and brings ad dollars with them. However the “American Customer Satisfaction Index, Annual eBusiness Report” August 2006 study from ForeSee Results finds little improvement in online news sites.

The top media sites graded in the customer satisfaction ratings scored between 72 and 74, with little advancement since the category was first measured in 2002. According to the study, “These mediocre customer satisfaction scores prove that none of these online media outlets had been able to replicate the success of its TV or newspaper counterpart.”

The consistent C grade is attributed to the commoditization of “facilitator” sites like Google and Yahoo, compared with broadcast and print forms. “When they get online, they lose the personality that’s being driven by the kind of reporting and the personalities that are on TV [counterparts],” said Larry Freed, online satisfaction expert and president and CEO of ForeSee Results.

The commoditization refers to the way news feeds are picked up by Google and Yahoo, and content from multiple sources loses its “voice,” instead being seen as coming from the same source. “Go to Google and click through, [is the publisher] getting the credit for the news story or is it a reflection of Google?” asked Freed. “The facilitators, the Googles and the Yahoos, are driving that sort of content.”

Freed recommends creating personality on news and content sites, and utilizing innovative functionality like streaming video, CGM and other means. Sites are cautioned to choose features that work.

The top news sites in the study were CNN.com, USAToday.com, ABCNews.com, MSNBC.com and NYTimes.com. Each scored between 72 and 74 in customer satisfaction.

The customer satisfaction survey uses the ACSI index, produced by the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in partnership with the American Society for Quality and CFI Group.

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