Friday, 14 March 2008

Another observation on IHT discussion groups

I've spent half an hour or so looking at the discussion groups on and what they can tell us about the IHT's readership, at least online.

What also stands out, beyond the tech issue, is that if the IHT want to get triple digit contributions, the topic has to be American.

Indeed, the topics currently online as of today that have more than 100 contributions are all topics coming out of the USA.

  1. Share your thoughts on Eliot Spitzer and his political future. (111 comments)
  2. Democrats are battling over how to hold do-over primaries in Florida and Michigan. Being debated are what kind of contests to hold, when to hold them, how to allocate the delegates and, critically, who picks up the tab in each state. Share your thoughts. (192 comments)
  3. Another author has been found to have fabricated their memoirs. Share your thoughts on their motivations. (260 comments)
  4. Share your predictions for the Democratic race in Texas and Ohio. (101 comments)
None of the other 26 discussion groups currently up at time of writing hit triple digits.

Now, I haven't had time to de-duplicate contributors, but with such low numbers in terms of participation, lower even when de-duplicated, I would say has a problem connecting with its audience, or its core audience is very small, or they're just too damned important to write posts and send in letters (most letter writers are regulars rather than one offs by the way, something easily seen if you search for their names on

I think better discussion topics would be a good start, because, to be frank, some are extremely dull. Timely does not make for interesting. Some examples:

  1. Do you think the fact that the Democratic race is still going on will help or hurt John McCain? (7 comments)
  2. Do you think the U.S. Air Force made the right choice in giving the contract to EADS? (31 comments)
  3. Despite a slowdown in growth, interest in the use of search engines as marketing tools is unabated. Are you likely to click on a paid link before looking for an unpaid one? (1 comment)
  4. Toshiba, champion of the HD DVD standard, has lost the battle to Sony and its Blu-ray format as the successor to DVD. Now that one standard has prevailed, do you plan to trade in your DVDs for Blu-Ray discs? (3 comments)
  5. In an age when many define themselves by what they will and won't eat, dietary differences can strain a romance. What role does food play in your relationship? (17 comments)

My rule of thumb would be this: what are IHT readers in Europe and Asia and the Americas and indeed elsewhere talking about at dinner or around the water cooler? My guess is none of the above.

Who is deciding what discussions to post and how much of a sensibility do they have for the IHT reader?

No comments: