Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why a mere website redesign isn't enough

"Lousy journalism on multiple platforms is just lousy journalism in multiple ways." 

-- Journal Register Co. CEO John Paton, in his widely read essay about newspapers in the digital age. I'm reminded of Paton's remark by Gannett Chief Digital Officer David Payne's scheduled presentations on Monday and Thursday, where he'll likely discuss a redesign of all the U.S. newspaper websites, including USA Today.


  1. Yep don't wait to actually here the plan let's trash it in advance. At least you're consistent!

  2. Oops....hear

  3. My God this is what I had been saying for 5 years. And then, I was laid off.

  4. Paton is blowing smoke, just like Big G. JR papers and online sites are lousy and starved, just like Gannett. He and the top brass he brought in are making big bucks, while the rank and file struggle to live on digital dimes. He talks a big game, but JR is owned by a hedge fund. Bromides like break news online first - duh. The biz model has changed to penny ads instead of dollars. But the brass get paid like old media executives. And they don't have any answers. Just hanging on until they can step on your face to get to a lifeboat.

  5. Exactly.
    Glad I won't be a rank-and-filer the moment when the top execs have suckled the last dollar out of this sorry company.

  6. And yet there are any number of dimwits here who complain about how hard it is to navigate the Gannett sites.

    Funny thing, though. They rarely offer specifics, and they never offer solutions. Probably because they have no idea what they are talking about.

  7. 1:45 -- If you don't think it's hard to navigate the Gannett sites, I wonder what's wrong with you.

    Specifics ...
    * It's often hard to find stories online even if you know they were published because you saw them in the print edition.
    * The big stories are often relegated to secondary positions, so that the news sites can promote photo galleries. That means the big stories are often hidden in places that you have to know about to get to them.
    * The calendars contain so many worthless items -- club meetings, etc. -- that you get pages of listings for a single day. That means finding the events that a lot of people might actually attend takes four times as long as it does on calendars from competitors.
    * It's easier to find a link to Deal Chicken than it is most of the cover stories for everything but the A section.
    * Most Gannett stories expire after a month, making all of the above even worse and limiting the many hits we could receive for evergreen stories with traction.

    I could go on and on and on, but don't feel it's necessary. Many Web sites stink and Gannett's are certainly among them. If they weren't the only game in most of the towns they serve, there's no way they would be competitive.

  8. Scary sense of deja vu there. Clearly Hunke not only read that essay, but he cribbed it point by point for the so-called Transformation.

  9. Thanks for making my point, 1:54. Many of those things are content issues, not navigation issues. Deciding which stories are posted online is a content issue. Deciding how long they can be accessed is a content issue.

    You make it all too easy. The point is the same, and now underscored by you. Most of the people here who complain about navigation really have no clue what they are talking about. 1:54 just proved that.

  10. Let me add to 1:54's list. When I was looking for a story I wrote on our site, it was easier, faster, more reliable to find it by using Google than by using the search engine on the site. I think that's because the site engine is from another g a n n e t t subsidiary.

  11. Doing a search on the USA Today website is difficult to almost impossible, too, which is especially maddening when you consider that "search" is what the Internet is all about.

    Do a search at and you get all kinds of garbage returns. Crazy.

  12. I've given up on Gannett sites. I used to visit USAT but now never do. For national and international news the NYTimes has a broader selection of better written stories. For local news, I now go to a couple of local blogs. Their quality isn't as consistent, but the cover what I care about and I don't have to wade through pages of useless fashion and night club photos to get the news I want.

    My local Gannett web site is a mess and virtually unusable. There's a lot on it, but the organization is so bad you can't find anything and the web site editors (hit whores really) just put crap on the home page they think will get hits, light night club slideshows and news of the weird. Serious journalism is dumped inside and impossible to find.

  13. In the end, and these days it feels close to the end, nothing at all was Transformed at USA TODAY. And now the buzz words show we are off to something else.

    That indeed is the shadow-game that is the Gannett Way.

  14. Read Paton's piece. Hunke even stole the salient word from the intro: "You don’t transform from broken." And then, good Lord, he made this his MO: "Stop listening to Newspaper people."

    Hunke doesn't seem to have an original thought in his head. Good luck to all of us on Thursday trying to get some answers from him.

  15. 2:10 -- @1:54 here. It all depends on your definition of "content issue." With the items I listed, all of the content that people want is readily available on the site ... it's just really hard to find. Doesn't that make it a navigation issue? It's not that the content is missing, it's that our sites make it difficult to access.

    Granted, the way we place stories is a major factor. I suppose we could play semantic games and argue about whether these decisions are content- or navigation-related. The fact is, many of the people running our Web sites seem incapable of posting stories in a way that makes them easily accessible to the public. So, the sites are weak. Bottom line.

    I completely agree with you that things like our horrid calendar listings are content related. Put simply, we allow too much irrelevant content to be posted, making it impossible to find things that the majority of readers will be interested in. That said, the calendars were fine before Gannett management made a big deal out of promoting the thousands and thousands of items that they insisted on having in the calendar database.

    People read news sites because those sites sift through information and pick out the most important items. Readers don't want to have to sift through it themselves. With our calendars, we require sifting. So, the problem is content related, but that problem makes the sites hard to navigate. These are not separate issues, and if we had better Web folks, they would realize that.

    Somebody for instance could say, "Yes, we can have 100,000 items in our calendar for Aug. 16, but that will make the calendar unusable." Instead, we have people that say, "Yes sir. I'll get 100,000 items entered as soon as possible, and then I'll make a big deal out of numbers ... even though it will make the calendar unusable."

    See my point? The blame may lie in many places, but our sites are extremely hard to navigate.

  16. Hunke has an original recipe; the vice presidential Scotch. Two parts bullshit, one part incompetence, shake up editorial and let it sit for a year. Serve with a dash of arrogance.

  17. @6:35 "Shake up editorial and let it sit for a year ..." That would be hilarious if it weren't so true -- and if it didn't hurt when I laugh.

  18. Journal Register and all the other properties owned by hedge funds are going to be ground into crap to eek out more profit (sounds a lot lit Big G).

  19. Hunke's motto is similar to Gannett's new tagline:

    "Someone else's good ideas. They're all within reach."


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