Friday, 30 April 2010

The assault continues!

Now, this blog (or, more correctly, the people reading it) has made something of a comical celebrity out of*.

But I would like to think that while it has served as the butt of many jokes and much ridicule, the fact it has attracted attention is a positive thing - and it is a largely positive site, offering decent news, despite being presented badly - as are most news sites, let's be honest.

However, one thing they have now done which I'm confident will serve only to increase the amount of ridicule they receive, is to launch a blog from their 'digital publisher' (see earlier blog on meaningless web titles for more information!), Matt Holmes.

An admirable step, you may think. Well, I did too, but on closer inspection, it could simply serve to show what a hap-hazard approach newspaper groups (in this case, Northcliffe) take to their online offering and the total lack of respect shown to web readers which would never happen to those picking up the printed product.

Think I'm being awful? Well, let's have a look at the blog regarding the launch of the new site...

It's all nicey-nicey stuff, Matt letting us know that he is "used to pressure".

He then goes on to prove that this really isn't the case. I mean, do digital publishers at Northcliffe really believe that getting to work at "6am loading up [does he mean uploading?] the olf TiG and then starting to upload the new one" is pressure? I sincerely hope not, as I dare say many thousands of web professionals and early-shift reporters would have something to say about that.

And why be uploading a new site on the launch day? Honestly, I'm sure a group as large as Northcliffe would have known when the sites were going live, no? Start early kids, just ask anyone who runs a website; preparation is the key.

But enough of semantics, the points made are also just as representative of a policy paying very little heed to the user.

People are having problems posting comments apparently. As I'm sure all 'digital publishers' are aware, commenting is potentially THE most valuable commodity to a news website.

However, we should all be reassured as the crack team at Northcliffe is on the case ("that is in hand and should be resolved soon").

Forgive me, but a group-wide relaunch of sites for the second biggest regional newspaper group in the country, probably costing millions, and the comment facility doesn't work properly?

Please, spare me.

It all points to a ridiculous lack of interest in the website.

The blog goes on to admit, and I use that word purposely, that there are fewer channels (news sections basically) and that it is "incredibly complicated" sorting things out and that launching a new site is "actually quite stressful".

All this is news to a 'digital publisher' responsible for one of Northcliffe's bigger sites? Shocking, truly shocking.

Speaking to various friends and from some experience, to have someone responsible for a launch as big as this who doesn't know how stressful a launch will be, is foolhardy at best, downright irresponsible at worst.

Yet we are supposed to be comforted that more news channels will appear in the "coming weeks and months". Well thank God for that, for a minute there I thought I might not be able to find anything I want to read - like 'health' and 'education' perhaps, both on the list for "the coming weeks and months"...

I'm sorry "TiG" (how quaint) as I am sure you are trying your best, but I am more sorry for your readers, and the readers of other Northcliffe sites where this is undoubtedly also happening.

Northcliffe must ultimately be held accountable I would guess, as surely no self-respecting 'digital publisher' would have overseen a relaunch in such an ill-prepared, disorganised manner?

It appears your publisher (and their apparently-web-ignorant 'digital publishers') no longer cares about you, as the blog itself points out ("phew, it went live", "there are bound to be a few niggles", etc), and the whole Northcliffe setup is clearly in denial about the falling quality of their sites.

Still, we'll have another look in the "coming weeks and months" and see what wonders have been worked.

Oooh, before I go, I just wanted to point out perhaps the best example of this lack of care than any of my ramblings.

The header placed on the new blog is an attempt at mirroring that of "TiG". Yet, despite no end of digital expertise I am sure, the font that has been pasted over a stock masthead by the looks, is completely wrong**... See for yourselves below.

* For the record, I happen to think the journalism and much of the content on (pre-relaunch) is pretty good, in comparison to many thisis sites.

** The thisis font has always been Myriad Roman, if anyone cares.

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