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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I fear change
I was a bit shocked yesterday when I surfed over to the City Paper's web site to find everything had changed. No longer could I quickly and easily read the stories on the site, scan the headlines and find the stories that I needed or wanted for my personal and professional purposes.

There are a lot of people who've talked far more eloquently about this than I have. But here's my two cents on the whole thing.

Here's a note for the City Paper. If you have to publish a "how to use our web site" guide in your paper to explain how to use your site, you've made a huge mistake, especially if said how to guide runs three pages.

I realize the big trend is to move over to these e-papers, but to quote Mr. Horse from Ren and Stimpy, "No sir, I don't like it."

I visit all of the daily newspaper's web sites in the state and several around the country as part of my job. And I have to admit, the harder you make it for me to easily navigate your web site, the less happy I am about it. Having been on the other side of the Net and worked in a new media department, I understand there's a give and take between giving away everything for free and trying to drive revenue via your site. Web sites cost money to update and maintain--not just for the server space and the layout but for the people to put the information on-line.

Of all the papers in the state, I think the Chattanooga Times Free-Press has the best model. They put a majority of their content on-line "free" for anyone to use. They also have an e-paper, but it's a subscription model and the thing is--you can choose. Do you want to see it as an e-paper or just a standard edition? That model works for me for a variety of reasons. One is that if you want to share a link from a story, it's easier to do without the link being sixty lines long. The other is that it allows the reader to quickly and easily view the paper, find the articles that are relevant and read them without having to click on page after page after page until you find what you want. And finally, it doesn't clutter up your monitor with umpteen pop-up windows to read the story.

Another issue I've found is that the new e-paper has meant the City Paper's web site is updated later. One thing I respected about the City Paper was when I visited their site after a certain early hour of the morning, that it would be updated. It was consistent in how and when it was updated. Also, the site could be updated during the day with breaking news and it was easy to find. I'm not sure if or how the new site could or would be updated if something colossal such as Elvis returning were to happen. Now, the updating thing could be the web crew working out a few wrinkles with the new system. I know I got at least four e-mails yesterday from the City Paper with Monday's headlines. Annoying but these wrinkles happen when you have a new system.

The thing is--the City Paper has great content. It's got some good writers and some interesting articles. But it's just made all of that harder to find--at least for the e-user.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 7/03/2007 04:32:00 PM | |
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