It's been a little over a week since AnnArbor.com made its entrance online. Late last week a friend dropped off copies of the first two print editions and I had a chance over the weekend to go through them.
The print product is graphically very attractive (except for the stupid Frenchman with a beret logo that is supposed to be an acorn). The layout is pleasing and the photos and graphics very nicely displayed. It is a much more attractive product than the Flint Journal, in my opinion.
Where it suffers is that its content is much the same as what we've already read on the online version of AnnArbor. com. But at least in the print product it's all in one place and easier to find.
Anything I say about the online version of AnnArbor.com will likely be discounted by my comments in the run up to its debut. The product is weak, I don't think any reasonable analysis could conclude otherwise.
There have been breaking news stories, but I have yet to see a decent follow up (interviews with victims or their families, etc.) to any of them. The news stories disappear rapidly and unless you get out you mining tools to dig into the site you won't see them again.
The killing of two swans had the potentially to light up the website, but the original story disappeared off the blog roll quickly. It did reappear later again, but if I were in charge, that swan story would have been up front for a day or two. Like any animal abuse story it was attracting a lot of attention and comments. It has rolled off the top of the page (above the fold in dead tree talk) again this morning.
Many of the stories appear to be rewrites or expansions of press releases from the City of Ann Arbor or the University. That may change as time goes on, but for the first week, the one where you are trying to convince people you are the real deal, it looked pretty trite.
If there is a strong point for AnnArbor.com it is in the sports department. The sports writing seems good and they are covering the run up to Michigan football pretty well. I have enjoyed the articles and if anything helps the online traffic, it will likely be sports.
As for the site itself, it has a boring appearance and looks much like my Facebook page or any number of feeds, except it has a lot more wasted space. Again, my perspective is from one who likes a newspaper format where the best story is on top and the rest is inside.
I tried linking to a quirky video produced by Jordan Miller and got flak from her about not giving her an additional written credit (Her name was already listed in the credits for the You Tube video posted). I won't make that mistake again. In the world where bringing traffic to your site is the name of the game, a simple "thank you" for posting something that brings people to your site is sufficient. You will not see any more links to items on AnnArbor.com here at Free From Editors.
So I like the print product appearance and am kind of 'meh' about the online product. It certainly was not the ground-breaking site promised by the chief content czar. I'll check in there from time-to-time to see if they have improved. But for now, I'm not going there on a regular basis anymore.
You don't have to take my word for it, just look at the comments about the site at the site.