Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Evaluating McClatchy's web sites

How would you rate McClatchy's web sites?

One reader, a former McClatchy employee, posted a thoughtful -- and highly critical -- analysis of McClatchy's web sites. I am reprinting the entire post below, minus a few sentences which could identify the employee. (The former employee included some info that might lead to identifying him/her but I removed the info so it doesn't distract from the message.) Here it is:

... look at the MNI newspaper web sites. They are something out of the early 1990s and are entirely 10-15 years behind all around. They are entirely prehistoric. And I do mean entirely. Just a few things off the
top of my head.

The online world is immediate. It's now. It has changed drastically, especially the last 5 years, and will continue to do so. I don't need to tell YOU this, but MNI doesn't understand this FACT and they are still trying to catch up from 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 years ago, let alone the changes from the last 5 years. It's like tossing a cat with one leg onto a fast-moving treadmill.

They do not understand the concept and crucial importance of visuals and the importance of interactivity.

Despite the FACT, yes it's a FACT, that all online numbers improve exponentially with commenting as a feature on columns, stories and links, you've still got employees at the very top, and of course locally within, bickering on whether or not commenting works because God forbid you put your readership's commenting alongside the content of the journalists.

Same goes for the photos and reader-submitted content. This company simply does not embrace the value of the community content and that the community has a voice.

The company's internal content management program/system they are using is something [ancient]. From what I understand, their internal developers had been instructed to create something new, but like the mindless morons at the top that are running things, they wanted to create it in-house, as opposed to going outside and having a vendor do it for them. After spending at least 18 months on the initial in-house development stages, it was scrapped. So almost two years of wasted time and resources on developing something that they could have just gotten from a vendor instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, only to scrap the plans anyway. Again, this is the MNI mindset.

They simply do not get it. They are too thickheaded to change the mindset and it will be too late before it's realized. During my short cup of coffee there, I left there knowing that I tried my best to get them to "get it" but they just didn't. Surprise!

Fortunately, I think they're just about realizing it. Unfortunately for those remaining and for the company as a whole, it's my belief that they're probably about 5-7 years too late to even have a chance.

The mindset at MNI is prehistoric, they are playing "catch-up" like you wouldn't believe, and not just at the local level either, although the local level leadership makes the top-level leadership look like geniuses - imagine that?!

I can assure you that unless there has been some drastic changes at the very top and local levels (at the top), which I don't believe there has been since I've been there, MNI doesn't have a prayer when it comes to online.

My opinion, but one I'd put a lot of money on.

What do you think?


pweinberger said...

Unfortunately, these comments just sound like a rant. Some good points, but it looks like the author has an ax to grind. The good news with online is you can make huge steps forward quickly. The biggest issue for news companies are resources. They have been cut so much, like the print version, the online content suffers.

Anonymous said...

9:58 - you sound like a current MCT employee who can't get out or find another job. Comments on posting are real, well stated and accurate.

Anonymous said...

Wow. So all current MCT employees can't get out? That's pretty presumptuous to assume everyone wants out. I can count tons of people who declined buyouts. People do get paid pretty decently, if I recall. Really. Clean office, heated/ air conditioned. A copier and fax machine at one's disposal.

I think the essay raised some good points but I agree that the tone was one of anger - note the capitalization. It is not speaking from a truly analytical perspective. It's an editorial. So is most of our stuff here.

Anonymous said...

It read more like frustration than anger to me. McClatchy has made a big mistake in trying to transition print people to online "experts." It doesn't work.
Instead of hiring talented online minds, they try to fill key online positions with print editors/reporters. These morons make the calls, which are so dated and so yesterday, they're years behind when they introduce something "new." It may indeed be too late to do the right thing, but if they have any hope at competing they should fire the dinosaurs and hire legitimate modern pros.

Anonymous said...

If you're still working for McClatchy (or any newspaper), you're going to be thought of as desperate or dumber than a rock. The proud to be a journalist thing just makes everybody laugh. Get a real job where you can feel respected and take care of your family's future.

Anonymous said...

Could have been summed up in about two grafs. Basically, websites suck. And, the guy has no suggestions on how to change it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, comes off as having an axe to grind. I should know as I've got several axes. As for our website it suffers from too few people actually working on it and an executive editor who reminds me of that dog in the movie Up that is constantly distracted. Squirrel! She'll see something somewhere and then say "Why don't we have that?" Then that becomes the online editor's number one task until a week later when she wants something else. The number of people working on all the paper's sites is in reality only four. They'll start on her next big thing like the community content site, promote it like hell and then just drop it. It sat vandalized for almost a year. The main news site, saddled with MNI as a backbone is lifeless.

Anonymous said...

Encourage all of you who complain every time there is any negative comment about anything McClatchy to keep complaining. Don't ever read what is being said. You all know everything about everything, and if we don't think so, just ask you. When your occupation is a lie, phony and no longer interesting, honest or effective, just keep on truckin right to the unemployment office. You don't have falling circulation because you are good, no matter what silly reason you come up with to justify it.

Anonymous said...

"Don't ever read what is being said. You all know everything about everything, and if we don't think so, just ask you."

I'd say you're the pot calling the kettle black. Do you own a mirror?

Sounds to me like you're complaining about the complaining.

I'm sure you'll probably complain about this post too.

Anonymous said...

Reality of the situation is that something about the McClatchy websites is terribly wrong or they'd have more traffic and be making more money. The company is staffed with a manager pack of old, nincompoops who make ridiculous decisions on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

"...something about the McClatchy websites is terribly wrong or they'd have more traffic and be making more money."

How much traffic do the sites get and how much money do they make?

That information would be helpful.

John Altevogt said...

The most highly censored blogs at the Kansas City Star are Aaron Barnhart's (media critic), Derek Donovan (so-called "Reader's" Rep) and the editorial department's silly Midwest Voices blog.

The most open are probably Prime Buxx and James Hart's Crime Scene KC.

1918 said...

You can get an idea of the stats at Compete:

Anonymous said...

Allowing users to comment on McClatchy websites is one of the biggest traffic attractions. If they muzzle their online audience, they may as well throw in the towel. Any reporter or editor who suggests killing anonymous commenting or any other ridiculous censorship of Bee forums should be immediately fired and replaced with a sane person.

Anonymous said...

10:49 - They are muzzling the audience. They still have not grasped the concept of user-submitted content. I used to sit down in meetings upon meetings upon conference calls upon off-the record discussions upon more meetings to get them to understand this, it just didn't click with them.

The response was always the same ... "But then you've got readers posting on the same pages as our reporters." "But then you've got reader photos linked on the same pages as our staff photographer photos." My response was always, "Yeah, and?" They want the traffic, yet they're barely willing to take tiny baby steps while the competition blows and continues to blow them out of the water.

Some of these old fogies in charge are running things in a mighty scared frame of mind, which is always dangerous. They've already been the decision-makers behind letting some of the top up-and-coming talent go just to save their own soon-to-be retired asses and those in their circle of fogy friends. This has put the company in an even worse spot than it was three or four years ago. I watched it happen and still talk to friends within that are barely holding on themselves who continue to watch it happen.

I am among those of the opinion that the business will struggle mightily along for another few years probably before its final demise.