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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