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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 21, 2005 12:16 AM. The previous post in this blog was What Earl Blumenauer told Randy Gragg. The next post in this blog is Another guy I used to know. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Clarification

A short while back, we declared that The Oregonian has the world's lamest website, or words to that effect. This hyperbolic comment was not meant to cast aspersions on the people here in town who produce the local content for that site. I've met some of them, including the Big Velveeta; they're smart people.

The organization for which they work, however, and the restrictions that are placed on their operation are an entirely different story. The mere fact that the news stories completely disappear after a few weeks, for example. That is unforgivable. Blogs without comments -- it's right down there with it. In that kind of environment, one does the best one can.

Comments (15)

Agreed. I've had a bunch of conversations with good, hardworking folks at the paper - and they are just as frustrated with OregonLive.com as we are.

But, the grand poobah of all things Advance.Net, Jeff Jarvis, is gone now. So, will the website operation finally get off the ground? Or did he leave because no one else there gets it?

Trying to figure out the corporate mentality of the Newhouse folks (a.k.a. Advance) is a hopeless task. I do believe they're wasting some real opportunities, but then again, they can afford it.

The simple fact is that traditional media outlets, the so-called "legacy media," just don't get it when it comes to the Internet generally and blogging in particular. They are fully accustomed to the near-absolute control that they enjoy over their product, and they have adopted a defensive posture, seeing the Internet as a threat to that. They are then blinded to seeing the upside and benefits of the new technologies, let alone actually embracing them. The idea of enabling comments that you mention is an excellent example. Newspapers are used to having the complete unfettered discretion to decide which letters to the editor, if any, to print, and then on top of that they even further reserve the right and freedom to edit those letters before printing them. Enabling comments from the readership blows that whole concept right out of the water.

And it isn't just newspapers. In some ways radio seems to have done a good job of integrating the web into what they do. You can check out what their programming is, and often you can even stream it live from their sites. But when it comes to online interactivity, forget it. For example, take a look at the site for KEX, and find for me anywhere on that site where you, the listener, can give online feedback or ask them questions about their programming. I've looked, and I can't find it. It's not there. They don't want my feedback or questions. In fact, they clearly go out of their way to prevent it. What other business does that?

I've come to the conclusion that to the legacy media the Internet represents too much communication, too much free-flowing two-way communication, and the legacy media isn't ready to handle that.

While we're at it, can I say just how much I hate their stupid requirement that you provide them with your zip code, age, and gender when you want to read a story? I know they want to know the demographics, but c'mon. As a compulsive freak when it comes to keeping my computer clean of viruses and whatnot, I delete my cookies and cache (using Safari's nifty "reset Safari" function) every day. So every time I go to the OLive site, I've got to enter that damn info again. They must wonder about that 103 year old woman from New Hampshire who keeps reading all their articles, though.

As a content producer at a local media website, I can tell you that people on the old media side, be it print, radio, or TV are very resistant to the Internet, or what online media is capable of. But, remember, the best thing about the web is that you are not restricted to any ONE source of information. Commercial media outlets are going to continue doing what they do, how they do it, because THEIR way centers on promotion and advertising dollars.

The new way focuses on content. Bloggers, podcasters, SMALL outlets are the new media. The big guys will realize this when the rug is yanked out from under them. And its coming. Fewer people are dependant on TV, radio, and print for news. People are seeking out content from a multitude of sources online. Just look at search advertising. It's mentioned as the #1 threat to traditional media advertising.

Want proof? I know for a fact that one of the biggest magazine publishers in the country has a budget of nearly a half-million dollars just for pay-per-click and other search advertising. Why?
Because traditional advertising in other print vehicles is not working.

But if you are a passionate blogger, you probably know this.

I don't know that it matters about the cookies; I am asked for my info every time I go there, and I don't delete cookies. (Although I do use non-IE browsers.)

But maybe my 104 year old female reader from Antelope is related to your reader in N.H.?

From a recent wire service article: "One in five Web users who rely on newspapers for news primarily go to their online editions rather than read articles in print, a new study finds." (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6448213/did/8249182/)

For about 20% of us (including me, today I'm a 47-year-old female from Mollala :-) the web site is our primary experience of the Oregonian. I don't think they get that yet.

Maybe there are just a lot of fish to wrap in Portland.

For about 20% of us (including me, today I'm a 47-year-old female from Mollala :-) the web site is our primary experience of the Oregonian. I don't think they get that yet.

Oh, I think they get that, there are just two problems: 1) Their website doesn't generate much revenue, and 2) the nicer they make it, the less it will generate (ie., the more people it will take away from the print edition).

Has any major US newspaper figured out a way to make their online presence a viable source of income--and by viable I mean enough to compensate for a decline in print revenue? I don't think so, and I don't think we'll see much innovation until someone figures out how to do it.

The mere fact that the news stories completely disappear after a few weeks, for example. That is unforgivable.

I think they are embarassed of their paper so they don't allow archived access. Studying their stories, endorsements and predictions over the last decade might turn up some interesting trends.

For example, they've backed almost every major PDC spending idea I can remember.

The New York Times website is great. I don't know that the site itself "makes money" by traditional accounting standards, but it contributes to a strong brand name that I believe is running well in the black. To me, the print version of the Times (which I have bought every day for decades) is even better knowing that there's a strong website behind it.

When the time comes, I no doubt will pay for the web version of the Times and give up the hard copy. I can't say that about the O -- definitely not with what they've got posted right now.

To me, the print version of the Times (which I have bought every day for decades) is even better knowing that there's a strong website behind it.

Good point, which gets at the main problem behind the Oregonian website--the people who run it are not at all connected with the Oregonian. I've heard some pretty amusing stories about reporters who just drive themselves crazy trying to have more control over what happens to their stories on-line.

I think jaybird's "just don't get it" characterization is a bit of an exaggeration. They're learning to get it!

The LA Times experimented last weekend with a user-editable editorial. The Washington Post has frequent live online chats with their columnists. The main part of OPB Radio's site is a blog, comments enabled, with daily statewide news wrap-ups from April Baer. Willamette Week has commenting built into their online story posts, though no one seems to use it. The Mercury is going to be launching an expanded blogs and forum section in the near future. And on and on.

So give them a chance. They're catching up to the web.

Josh-

I don't think so The LA Times venture lasted two days, tops. It was poorly designed, and they weren't prepared.

And, yeah, it's true, some (a few) are trying to do some things now. But then, they have to. Circulation at all major newspapers is in a freefall. Viewership of network television news likewise. People get their news online. You gotta go where the consumers are.

So I stand behind my statement that legacy media doesn't want and isn't invested in the paradigm of two-way free-flowing communication. That's not the model they understand, let alone feel comfortable with. And they really show no sign of changing that.

But maybe at some point they will, and they do have enormous resources at their disposal, but they are so far behind the curve now that, well, ....

.... Let's just say that they've lost a lot of ground that they'll never recover.

I would not disagree that the OregonLive site is fairly terrible, and I use it as a 103 year-old woman in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado. Their demographic collections must be nothing but faex.

I do believe, though, that OregonLive is a separate entity contracted by the Oregonian to run their website. I may be wrong on this, but did recently notice michiganlive.com (aka "MLive.com" running an identical site for some small Michigan papers, with the identical information collection system for non-cookie users. A quick search, however, indicates that there is no equivalent in Arizona, or Ohio, so it is not an entirely national phenomenon.


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