No need to fear — click away

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, February 9, 2013

Don’t be afraid.

That’s the message I’m here to pass along today to the folks who use the Suffolk News-Herald’s website.

About two months ago, we added a feature to our website that is intended to help defray the costs of operating it and to ensure that we continue to offer for free online all of the news that appears in our paper.

Email newsletter signup

The Google Consumer Surveys program requires users to answer a question or two about shopping or reading habits in order to get access to various portions of the Suffolk News-Herald site. Currently we have the service enabled for archived stories, police reports and occasional current news stories. Users who would prefer not to answer the two-question surveys can still get free access to the posts they’re looking for by sharing the post via social media.

What we’ve learned after a couple of months of watching click-through rates is that, compared to our sister newspapers’ markets and to Google’s industry statistics, folks in Suffolk are disproportionately less likely to answer the survey questions and continue on to the content they sought. From the experience of our sister newspapers, we have come to believe folks are worried about the information they share with us or with Google.

In this era of identity theft and drones in the skies over the U.S., it’s understandable that folks might be a bit gun-shy when it comes to completing surveys they didn’t ask for. People are smart to protect their private information online, as there are millions of bad actors around the world looking for a way to trick you into effectively opening your bank account to them.

Let me assure you: There’s no need to worry about that on our website. These two-question surveys are not a trick, nor an enticement into some kind of chicanery. There’s no way for us or for Google to track you personally by your individual answers, only in the aggregate, and they don’t ask for the kind of information that would endanger your privacy.

In fact, I have no way to tell whether an individual user has completed the surveys or not, only that a surprisingly high proportion of the folks who look for police reports or archived stories on our site choose to give up rather than answer a couple of innocuous questions.

Of course, I can’t make anybody answer those questions, but it troubles me to think our website might fail to address the needs of its users, just as it would trouble me to think the printed paper might fail to meet readers’ needs.

If I began hearing from readers that we weren’t serving their needs on a regular basis with the printed edition of the Suffolk News-Herald, I’d ask lots of questions about how we were failing in our mission. I’d like to do the same with our website visitors, so here’s a request: If you’ve been put off by the recent survey requests online, call and talk to me about it. Let me know your objections and concerns and give me a chance to chat with you about them for a few minutes. I can be reached directly at 934-9616, and I’m eager to talk to you.

As always, thank you for reading the Suffolk News-Herald. We value the partnership we have with our readers, and we expect it to be a fruitful one for many years to come.