Tom’s presentation to Nevada County Online (which apparently videotaped the “sneak preview” and put it on the internet for all to see) begins at about 18:30 minutes, and the new website is “revealed” at about 30:50 minutes. You can check it out for yourself.
At the June 26 meeting, it was disclosed that The Union’s new website will be launched in mid-August, presumably joined by other Swift newspapers.
What struck me about the “sneak peek” was the corporate-driven nature of the new website — playing up money-making ad products, rather than unique community newspaper content or intelligent discussion. (No mention was made of the new commenting feature, which many expect to be secured behind a “paywall.” No mention was made that “content is king,” either.)
The design also shows signs of the Swift chain’s “cookie-cutter approach” to the websites for all its newspapers — a common criticism in the past. The site was originally conceived as one with “responsive” design, meaning you could drag a window to take up less and less space. But “unfortunately” that was not possible, Tom added, because “we sell ads based on size.” Yup, you do.
SAME “LOOK AND FEEL” ON PCs AND PHONES
The highlight design-wise seems to be that the website will look the same whether you view it from a PC, mobile device or tablet. It’s currently a hodgepodge if you look at TheUnion.com on your laptop vs. your phone or tablet, so that’s an improvement (though not groundbreaking).
The “Steal the Deal” was played up as a major highlight of the new website — not exactly inspiring content. “Steal the Deal” is a Groupon-like feature for local businesses, but as many of us know, Groupon has been a mixed bag.
I’ve received “Steal the Deal” offers via email (that’s what The Union does with some of its email lists) and found them to be uninteresting. Some current examples are here. One of the deals is in Colfax.
The presentation also showed the new website cross-promoting content from its current pages (the Home & Garden section, for example) with the annual Home & Garden Show, where vendors pay to make presentations. It was a corporate strategy, to be sure.
This remark stood out as the most misleading one in the “spun” presentation: Tom claimed community submitted content was “free” on the current website. Why, then, are letters to the editor and “Other Voices” behind a “paywall”? This is community submitted content. In fact, one of the group’s leaders at the presentation wondered why his submitted column was behind a paywall, not free. Tom said he’s look into that.
The Union’s print subscribers total about 15,000 — unchanged — and some 6,500 have signed up for the “All Access” paywall plan so far, Tom said. It was unclear if this was new subscribers (at $11.95 per month) — or just existing paid, print subscribers who had “traded up” to also read the paper online (at $1.45 more per month). I suspect more of the latter.
Despite The Union’s new website, demand will grow for Yubanet.com, KNCO.com, KVMR.com, blogs, Facebook and other “free” media to inform and inspire our community. We are seeing a new form of journalism emerge: “Learning from this week’s crash course in citizen journalism” is here.
Tom downplayed The Union’s “paywall,” likening it to having to pay for parking in downtown Nevada City (that also once was free). But as we all know, you can just park a block or two away for free. And sometimes the walk, fresh air and contemplation along the way is good for you.
The Union isn’t breaking new ground here; just towing the line.
The video is here:
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