Well that's never a good thing. I never really read the weekday papers, but the weekend editions, yes. At least I will still have my Sunday paper...
Bring Out Your Dead
The news about the News:
The Ann Arbor News will close in July and will be replaced by a Web-based, media company called AnnArbor.com, Laurel Champion, publisher of The News, announced in a 9 a.m. meeting with staff.
Ah but not so fast: the "web based company" will be run by the same people, hire some of the same people, and put out print editions twice a week plus print a "total market coverage" thing, whatever that means, once a week. This is basically a rehash of the Free Press/News changes with some extra frippery I assume is a way of avoiding Booth Newspaper's longstanding no-layoffs pledge. Or something else that has to do with financial wizardry. In any case, the way the story is framed—by the newspaper itself!—is a little dramatic.
If you're interested in some serious back and forth sniping, check out Jim Carty's blog. Journo commenters can't just call you a d-bag, they have to write an article-length comment to do it. Fun for the whole family.
As for the Michigan sports upshot… eh. Chances are the new web-based company will focus about as much on Michigan sports as the existing newspaper; they'll actually have more motivation to do so as an online-oriented product.
I did love that mere days after interviewing Dylan of UMHoops for a story that mentioned he authored a Michigan basketball blog but didn't link to or even name it, the News managed to cram no fewer than eight links to their new URL in the story announcing the News' demise. Dips. I'm nofollowing links to the Ann Arbor News for the next week, starting with the above.
The above amply demonstrates that the current leadership of the News is extraordinarily ill-prepared to make this transition. They fail to understand the currency of the internet, that linking out spurs linking in. Trying to trap readers in a box made of a million holes is archaic; I wonder how long it will take for someone to thwack Unfrozen Caveman Newspaper Exec in the back of the head and stage a coup.
(Sorry if the tag seems insensitive; it's just what media discussion goes under around these parts.)
I disagree with this, seeing how they (most notably) refused to link to Mgoblog when Brian broke the story of Lloyd's retirement. John Heuser, who wrote the article, dismissed it as a "fan site" and fan sites lack credibility after all.
Which doesn't change that he got the event, date, and time correct, and that they used this info for their story. The MSM was already legitimizing blogs by adding some of their own and referencing others (but not by name), so why not go the full step?
In the age of minimal barriers to entry, content and information win out. The lolmsm and AA News could've remained relevant and good at their old jobs by staying better than the competition just as Brian has done. But now they're diving in headfirst after suggesting that the water is plenty deep, the depth of the water isn't important anyway, and swimming is for dorks.
The Ann Arbor News article about umhoops has a photo gallery embedded in the same online version that couldn't be bothered to link to or mention umhoops. Many MLive articles that are written for print are mirrored online with relevant links added.
Yes, without the local media there would be no mgoblog. Brian has said this himself, and I'm probably paraphrasing this poorly, that the reason he founded it was because there was nothing but objective analysis and a lack of passionate reaction among Michigan coverage.(I can't find the relevant comment thread about that right now.)
As for the AA news, read Carty's blog post where he describes the projects the News undertook during his time, most of which suggest gross mismanagement, to say the least, of approaches irrelevant to print journalism.
It's not a conspiracy, it's just a sign that the people in charge of the AA News and now the website probably don't have a good handle on how the internet works. If they can't even bother to name the blog written by the person they are writing about, let alone link to it on the web version, how are they going to be successful in a medium in which the entire currency is links? This combined with some of the anecdotes provided on Carty's blog paint a picture of management deciding to make money by having the current writers post on a website instead of actually figuring out how to be successful. All those bloggers do is post on a website, right? People who would have actually researched a good plan wouldn't miss small crap like the link.
Yeah, I know there is a bit of "I make big" to my post. But in one case we have several instances of management trying to save their journalism business by firing journalists and having the remaining journalists do gimmicks on the cheap that failed due to poor management. In the other case, we have them missing one of the key elements of their newest gimmick. Now this doesn't mean they are destined to fail and can't save this, but it doesn't doesn't inspire confidence that the newest gimmick is going to go any better than the previous ones.
If you count mentions of annarbor.com, not just hyperlinks, then the number goes up to 12.
Not sure how nofollow works exactly, but it looks like Brian applied it to the mvictors link in the post. Does that have the intended effect?
I can't speak to the leadership abilities at the Ann Arbor News, but at least they have the good sense to be separate from MLive. I've never understood how a national newspaper company can have such a pathetically designed website. They need to take a look at websites like the new york times and msnbc.com. News websites excel when, ironically enough, they imitate the look of a newspaper. Allow the reader to scan quickly for the most important news and click through efficiently for particular topic areas. MLive has never been very good at either.
The MLive concept is left over from the late 1990s when everyone was trying to be a "portal".
Advance Publications, who owns Booth and thus the AA News, as well as a bunch of other papers, uses the exact same format for its other papers - the Cleveland Plain-Dealer is cleveland.com, the Newark Star-Ledger is nj.com and so on.
I've never really understood why they thought that, when it came to the paper's online presence, it was a good idea to chuck out a strong brand like the AA News in favor of something as tepid as MLive.com. Maybe they were trying to differentiate between the kinds of content available in print and online - which seems to me to be mostly a distinction made by media industry people and not by consumers.