Dayton Daily redesign a start in the right direction

All my friends still think I read the DDN every morning, cover to cover.

That stopped about 2 years ago when two things happened (take notes DDN marketing people):

The paper was on my doorstep by 6am about half the time. If I didn’t have it by 5:45 it’s really not working for me.

They had offered me a half-price deal one year to get me back- for a 365-day subscription. It was about $125. When the people called, they would only offer it for the Thursday -Sunday deal. Instead wanting to charge me $180 or so for the full year. I’m sorry- there isn’t enough stimulating content to warrant $180 investment- I’ll read online thank you.

I had lost faith in the paper when they entered their moron period-with stories that appeared 2x in the same paper- one long, one short. I mean, really? Who was the moron who thought that people wanted to read the same thing twice- especially with a smaller than ever news hole (that’s industry talk for space available for news- as opposed to ads).

New Dayton Daily News designSo, yesterday- we read that the new junta in charge- had made their move. A redesign- in their own words:

Today we’re unveiling a redesigned Dayton Daily News with a new look, a new Local section and a renewed emphasis on important investigative journalism. It comes after months of research to better understand what’s important to you. Some of the highlights are:

  • A new Local section. We know how important local news is to you, so we’re adding a Local section every day. Our Nation and World report will now be in one convenient section.
  • Local Focus page. In the Local section, we’re including a page of community news for Montgomery, Greene, Warren and Miami counties.
  • A new look. You’ll notice a bold new front page as well as less-cluttered pages throughout.
  • More emphasis on important issues. We know you’re concerned about jobs and the economy, about national security, about crime in your community. We’re refocusing our resources on the issues that matter most to you.

And more than anything else, we’re renewing our commitment to investigative journalism. No one else in the Dayton area has the resources or expertise to dig into important issues like the Dayton Daily News. For more than 100 years, we’ve held government officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer money. We’ll continue to fight for open, responsible government and a safe and prosperous community.

via Letter from the Editor: A new look, a renewed commitment.

While all this may be good and fine, it’s nothing but a return to what a newspaper was supposed to do in the first place. Report the news and present it in a readable presentation. Yet, times have changed since all these people in charge went to journalism school. Reverting to real news won’t be enough. With the shared newsroom with CH7 and WHIO radio- we see no mention of merging and creating true synergy in reporting.

The Dayton Daily News website sill remains one of the absolute worst user interfaces I’ve ever encountered online for a major publisher. Cox should be ashamed.

Maybe keeping the web edition so horrible is their strategy to get people to resubscribe to the print edition?

Most importantly, they’ve failed to do the most important thing they could do to regain our trust that the paper is actually worth paying for- they neglected to apologize to the community for talking to us like we were stupid for so long. An apology would go a long way to rebuild our faith in the paper. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing they don’t have to apologize for is Tom Archdeacon- one of the only writers who puts compelling reading into the paper- even with the stupid short story format.  I look forward to once again seeing words that matter in the paper- let’s keep our fingers crossed.

They still have to learn how to engage their audience- the comments need to come back onto their site from Facebook. The search function needs to work- and, they need to get rid of Flash on their site. While all this is online stuff- it’s part of a contract with the community- to be OUR resource- not their ad vehicle. If they could only learn a newspaper brand is only as good as it’s connection to the community it’s a part of- they’ll come a long way- and maybe even win my $125 back.

Getting me to $180 might be a stretch- at least until they prove that it’s not going to be a police blotter first and foremost. That ain’t news- it’s not reporting- and it’s not worth the dead trees they’re printing on.

And- one last thing- get rid of “Speak Up” once and for all- unless the name is signed- it’s not in the paper (and pulling comments off the site- and posting them there without a signature was also lame).

If they need a roadmap on how to apologize- take a lesson from Domino’s who staged a turnaround thanks to their brilliant ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky- with their apology campaign.

And, then- realize, it’s still going to take time to win subscribers back. My taste for the DDN is still soured from years of bad writing, moronic endorsements, better than us attitudes, and do as I say- not as I do doublespeak – never mind the public flogging I’ve taken in “endorsements.”

I won’t hold my breath for the call with the $125 offer- but, if they did, I’d take it*. Would you?

* I’d want a $1 refunded, every time the paper isn’t on my doorstep by 5:45am on weekdays.

 

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11 Responses

  1. truddick June 13, 2011 / 10:31 am
    I’d specifiy that anonymous comments in the form of letters to the editor might be accepted if there was compelling reason to protect the identity of the source–as in, for example, any city employee who wrote to comment on a scandal at city hall.  That’s traditional journalistic ethics as I learned ’em in my intro. class, which has now been about 40 years ago when print journalism was still the only in-depth type you could find.

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  2. Dad June 13, 2011 / 11:02 am
    I have never believed in schools of journalism. Here’s why:
    The people aiding veterans with the GI Bill sent me to an orientation at Boston University about career choices and school choices.  The speaker I remember was Erwin Canham, editor of the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor, who said something to the effect of:
    “Don’t study journalism if you want to be a journalist. We can always teach you how to put the paper in the typewriter. Study the social sciences instead. Learn history and political science, or psychology. That’s what you need to know to write about it.”

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  3. Allison June 13, 2011 / 3:52 pm
    The DDN is a waste of a perfectly good tree. Their writing is horrible, sometimes laughable. I love when they put a teaser headline on their website and then when you click on it, it reads something like “we only make our most important stories available to our paying subscribers”. The 10,000 ads I must endure to visit the DDN site should more than cover that.
    Several weeks ago, I received a phone call from the DDN wanting me to underwrite their donation of newspapers to school children. WTF? Pay for their donation? I was laughing as I hung up. 

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  4. Gary June 13, 2011 / 4:17 pm
    I do like the “GO!” section on Friday … but they won’t let you subscribe to it only, you must get the Thursday — Sunday deal, which will keep on being delivered once your timeframe is over … That’s what got me mad at ’em.

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  5. David Lauri June 13, 2011 / 7:28 pm
    Allison, if you want to visit the DDN site without ads, install a decent web browser–Firefox or Chome–and then install the Adblock extension (available for Firefox at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/adblock-plus/ and for Chrome at http://chromeadblock.com).
     
    Whether it’s worth the hassle to do this just to visit the DDN website is worth debating, but it blocks annoying ads on other sites too.

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  6. Bubba Jones June 13, 2011 / 9:25 pm
    David L – thanks for the Firefox tip!   And I like the new pic but I miss the hardhat! ;)
     

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  7. Hall June 14, 2011 / 3:32 pm
    Who hasn’t heard of ad-blockers ? Oh wait, IE users ?

    And as Gary mentioned, sign up for a promotion they offer and ask them “will it stop when the time period is done?” and every person will tell you “yes” …. but they’ll keep on delivering it and billing you.

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  8. Bubba Jones June 14, 2011 / 5:51 pm
    Who hasn’t heard of ad-blockers ? Oh wait, IE users ? – Hall
     
    Or someone that’s been running out of the box Firefox for several years.  Yes, I’ve heard of ad-blockers.  I  usually don’t like to install a bunch of add-on’s or extensions to software as it usually will create a conflict somewhere down the line (as evidenced by some of the funky behavior that this site will have after DE installs some WordPress extension).  I was merely acknowledging DL’s SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATION for a particular add-on.  Hardly worth some snarky comment from you.

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  9. Chase June 14, 2011 / 6:21 pm
    “The Dayton Daily News website sill remains one of the absolute worst user interfaces I’ve ever encountered online for a major publisher.”

    That may change yet. CMG is a Django shop, and they were posting on jobs sites in the last couple months for a developer to help build “one of the largest Django apps ever – scaled to serve web, mobile, and more for 100+ prominent newspaper, TV and radio sites.” I have no way of knowing what exactly they’re building, but if it’s big in scope, then maybe they’ll do a nice site relaunch sometime in the next several months/year. Here’s to hoping.

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  10. Hall June 14, 2011 / 10:20 pm
    “I  usually don’t like to install a bunch of add-on’s or extensions to software as it usually will create a conflict somewhere down the line…” ??

    Examples ? I’ve been running Mozilla since it’s pre-1.0 days, with AdBlock, and later Firefox. Anytime I re-install, AdBlock is the FIRST extension I add. I don’t know of a single issue in years.

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  11. djw June 14, 2011 / 10:24 pm
    Even setting aside quality issues (which are, obviously, quite substantial), I’m kind of amazed by how many people in Dayton get home delivery of the dead tree paper. Several of my colleagues and about a third of the people on my floor get daily delivery. I don’t think I’ve known anyone in Seattle who got a local paper delivered after about 2003 who is under the age of 70.

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