Monday, August 3, 2009

A brief review

It's been a little over a week since 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 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 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 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.


Anonymous said...

It shouldn't be too surprising that the print product looks good. Some of the best professional designers in Booth put the look together and are laying it out in Jackson every week. These aren't amateurs.

Jim of L-Town said...

Hopefully they are getting paid a professional wage for their work.

It really does look pretty good.

They should send a few of those designers to - the online version - and do something there.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if you call $13 an hour a professional wage for part-timers at 28 hours/week (no benefits) and a $200/week paycut for the full-timer a good deal (plus the commute from AA). They are good and deserve much more. Others would have went but unemployment pays better.

Anonymous said...

I don't argue with your analysis, other than this:

"It did reappear later again, but if I were in charge, that swan story would have been up front for a day or two."

A day or two is WAY too long for any story to be featured. In order to get people checking multiple times per day, there should be something new each time they come back. To have a story as a main story online for one or two days would give the impression that the site hasn't been updated.

Jim of L-Town said...

As President Obama would say, "Let me be clear."

Yes, a story up front for one or two days is too long, but there should be at least a small photo of a swan and a link (above the fold) to the original or follow-up story. People were still commenting long after the story dropped off the radar, but I believe even more would have checked in if there was at least a small link to the story as soon as you logged on the site.

But I wasn't clear.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the swan story was compelling, and it should be up front, as long as there are updates and a different focus.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the commenters who say the print product looks good. To me, it looks like what I find in little towns Up North. In no way does this look like something from Ann Arbor of all places. And I can't believe the online version makes readers scroll through stories in order to find stuff. I call the whole thing a mess. What a shame for news consumers.

Anonymous said...

I also disagree that the print product looks good. It looks like a weekly from 1980. Content lacking. Same old, same old. The whole thing is a disaster.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Jordin is an employye of

Anonymous said...

I think one of the big problems with their website is that it's a template basically. Everyone can upload their own content, and to accomplish that, it appears they had to make it seriously basic. A dedicated graphic designer for the web and some ability to change the design eventually would be good for them. Design online is just important as in print in my opinion. It really does just look like a blog right now. But maybe it will evolve over time. I also think that when the economy picks up, AA will once again have a daily print newspaper. People really want a daily print paper. If it were me, I would have done whatever it took to keep a daily print paper. Change your name, start new, print everyday - even if you don't deliver - and forget about the web, or at least charge for it if you must have it. Right now it's basically half free, half this, half that, and nothing at all done well. I think people will buy the print paper, but the online I'm not so sure about. Somebody will come along and publish a daily print paper again one day.

Anonymous said...

The online web site is a mess, and
the print version is not much better.
The page designers are in Jackson? Really? That's an 80-100 mile commute, if they live in Ann Arbor.
Why don't they move the page design to Bangalore, India?

Jim of L-Town said...

Don't say that India thing too loud, that is a definite possibility.

Be careful what you suggest here.