Today a large chunk of twitter is wistfully linking to “How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet” as they mark ten years since the untimely death of Douglas Adams.
Rereading that piece for the umpteenth time something strikes me, the problem in the third paragraph about presenters and journalists reading out URLs hasn’t really gone away, it has just metamorphosed. They may have modified their tone, but how they direct people to a page is still often stilted . For the elite few it is fine, John Humphrys can easily direct listeners to “the Today website” which even has a fairly simple address bbc.co.uk/today if he feels they need reminding. For the rest it isn’t that simple, most sit under at least their station name in the hierarchy if not also under a classification like ‘features’ or ‘drama’. The really unlucky ones might only have a URL that looks like http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0105rs2 which leads to radio along the lines of this from Rufus Hound:
All of the information on today's show is available on the website www DOT bbc DOT co DOT uk FORWARD SLASH radio4extra, have a look for the picture of me, click on that
There are many downsides to this approach, firstly there isn't currently a picture of Rufus on the page he points to, you need to have clicked through to either the comedy or all programmes A-Z listings to find him. Secondly what if you are one of the 370,000 people registered as blind or partially sighted in the UK or are number in the seven or eight people who are yet to see him at a gig or on television? Admittedly when you do find the picture of him he refers to it does invariably have the title of his show next to it, but it is piling on cognitive load to a process that already screams to be made easier. I don’t want you to think I am picking on Mr Hound, I’m only using him as an example as I have just listened to the latest “What's So Funny?” podcast and the problem exists across a wide range of shows. Some programmes have found workarounds for the issue, Eddie Mair makes great use of the PM blog which has a much nicer URL bbc.co.uk/blogs/pm/ than the 'PM Home' page.
I don’t have any solutions to this issue to mind, but that doesn’t stop the problem annoying me almost as much as podcast introductions that, after pointing you at a web page, tell you not to go there until after you have listened.
The only other programme with a similarly simple address I listen to on a regular basis is More or Less at bbc.co.uk/moreorless I can only assume they get special treatment because Tim Harford plugs Diane Coyle's books on twitter.
I do like the /programmes/ space especially the interesting aggregation stuff including the 'Buzz' side-box, but it just doesn't produce URLs that any self respecting radio presenter would want to read out on air.