What was lost is found. But lost was fun, too.


So you can't find your content? Maybe you'd like to read about something else that is lost. Like Amelia Earhart. Or your luggage.

Early this morning I was scanning my incoming Google alerts and found one I wanted to investigate at NPR.org. It was one of those funky links that breaks over about three lines and includes accidental carriage returns, however, so where I wound up was my favorite 404 page of all time: both funny and smart.

Sure, my content was lost.  Naturally I would want to read about lost content.

Naturally I tweeted it:


To my extreme interest, it got retweeted quickly and often, and then re-retweeted, and re-re-retweeted, spreading virally just the way one would hope if it were actual journalism.

In fact, my bit.ly link to the bad URL got clicked on so much that somebody at NPR must have wondered why a specific nonexistent address got 450 clicks in a couple of hours … figured out where I had wanted to go … and fixed it. Wow, they know what to do about 404’s both on the front end and the back!

So everybody wins.  Other people actually looking to read about Marc-André Hamelin will get to.  Lots and lots of extra ads were served, even on those 404 pages.  Hundreds of people got an extra smile today.

And I learned that my own 404 page is an unexploited opportunity.

For now.

About Owen Youngman

Professor Emeritus of Journalism and formerly Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Formerly senior vice president/strategy and development and director of interactive media, Chicago Tribune.