I’m reading the Daily Progress less and less

Ever since they redesigned their site, I’ve had to work much, much harder to read their news. The design is unintuitive, the format is difficult to comprehend and the RSS feeds are overwhelming. Regarding the RSS – I woke up this morning with 300+ items in my feed reader from the DP; why is this link “new”? I can’t even tell when it was originally published; primarily because the story doesn’t actually come up when I click through!

I know they’re listening, and for that I’m somewhat hopeful that they’ll fix things.

However, for the time being I have deleted them from my newsreader. If they write anything interesting, please let me know.

As a note to readers – all links to the Daily Progress prior to 27 March 2008 are broken.

(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)

28 Comments

  1. Victoria April 8, 2008 at 09:07

    Jim, I sadly agree. Along with cvillenews.com, the DP was my first stop every morning to find out what’s going on in our fair city. But you’re right, it’s simply too much trouble to navigate now.

    Out of necessity, I need to get my news quickly. It’s great to see a list of stories and synopses– they can be grouped by category, i.e. local, sports, etc– and just click on the links you want to read in-depth.

    With sites like cvillenews and readthehook.com adding more and more content, and ever-increasing readership, a local newspaper like the DP should surely be able to keep up with those two models. I like cvillenews in particular because the site is so well-designed and the aesthetic is calm. The more flashing and whirling (with corresponding slower loading times!) I experience, the less likely I am to return to a site. The content has to be stellar for me to put up with that!

    Reply
  2. Matthew Rosenberg April 8, 2008 at 10:43

    I am sorry to hear that people are having a hard time navigating the site.

    I have a host of changes that will hopefully make your browsing experience better.

    Speaking frankly, there isn’t much that can be done about past links. The new CMS uses a completely different URL structure. I apologize for the inconvenience but it was necessary for us to grow.

    Over the past week the developers have reinstated a large part of our archive and we are working on making that searchable. I have been posting comments on cvillenews.com as I get more information.

    Dailyprogress.com is still the place to go for up to date, accurate information. I hear your complaints and work everyday with the developers to make finding that information easier. Speaking of which, I just got an email from them so I need to cut this short.

    Reply
  3. Jim Duncan April 8, 2008 at 11:01

    Matthew –

    Thank you sincerely for listening and responding.

    I don’t disagree that the DP is a great source of information and reporting. What is a problem is finding said information now. I have to constantly move my mouse around to keep up with the navigation tools; I hate to say it but navigating the site is too much work. I want the information to come to me via RSS, not struggle through the website.

    Regarding the RSS feeds – I just can’t weed through a morning of 300+ “local news” articles, many of which are a week old, but appear “new.” When I go to the site, it’s difficult to navigate.

    I suspect that there were more than four local news stories in today’s print version, but I’ll never know – and I expect that I’m not alone.

    As far as the archives – I appreciate that you and they are working to reinstate them, as we’ve discussed, but think that (not being a true geek) that there must have been a way to make the migration and not abandon the community that had been built around and on top of the past several years of the Daily Progress’ reporting.

    My frustrations exist because I used to depend on the DP for daily news about growth, development, politics, etc. and that’s just not possible right now.

    Frankly, Waldo’s scraped RSS feeds from before were infinitely more functional than today’s version of the DP.

    The KISS principle works – look at the WSJ and the NYtimes – the information is there for the taking. (and the NYtimes is run on WordPress if I recall correctly!)

    Thank you again for paying attention and responding.

    Reply
  4. Matthew Rosenberg April 8, 2008 at 11:37

    The RSS feed below is programmed to display only local articles. I know change is tough but I think it would serve readers well to take a second and explore some of the navigation. For instance, under Online Tools there is an RSS drop down that contains several feeds for different sections of our site.

    http://www.dailyprogress.com/cdp/rss/cat_local_news/

    Again regarding links, even if we had switched to WordPress, every link would have still broken. Our previous CMS was a beast that needed to be put down.

    As an update, I am working on some code that will replace the bottom portion of the DP home page with all local content.

    Reply
  5. Jim Duncan April 8, 2008 at 12:10

    Just to clarify – I know that switching the WP wouldn’t have preventing the breaking of the links … but I’ll bet that converting w/o breaking is possible (I never underestimate technology). I mentioned WordPress because it’s such a functional, cleaner format than what DP currently has.

    I’ll comment again tomorrow morning about the local news RSS feed … right now after I subscribed and unsubscribed everything shows the same time/date stamp. I’m hoping that tomorrow will bring new, sorted feeds, as reading chronologically is more efficient (for me at least).

    As an aside, why is tbo.com loading when dailyprogress.com loads? It looks like the same template, but I can’t figure out why we need/care about Tampa Bay news.

    Reply
  6. Matthew Rosenberg April 8, 2008 at 13:29

    Jim,

    Could you send me a screen shot of the RSS feed with scrambled date and time stamps. The feeds have been a source of frustration for me as people ahve reported problems but I have not been able to duplicate them. It would be very helpful.

    Reply
  7. Brady Brannick April 9, 2008 at 10:36

    Jim,

    Agree with your comments on the new site. It is virtually useless now. Too hard to find information.

    What were they thinking?

    Matthew,

    As far as the archives, they are the single most important link to promises made by politicians and policy makers, and to the history of this community and community issues.

    What is the status of reinstating the archives? I’ve been looking for stories on Albemarle Place, for example, and nothing appears.

    Even letters to the editor from recent dates (post site redesign) are missing. Check it out…

    I have contacted the publisher, Lawrence McConnell, and expressed my concern over the missing archives, and he was surprised that they were no longer available. It was not his understanding that this would be the case.

    I suggest others call him and let him know that we need all of the archives back.

    BB

    Reply
  8. Matthew Rosenberg April 9, 2008 at 12:41

    Hello Mr. Brannick,

    I strongly disagree with your notion that our site is “virtually useless”. I would agree that we have a lot of room for improvement. If you have a specific suggestion i would love to hear it. Many people have contacted me with suggestions that were very helpful, Jim included.

    As a direct result of user feedback I have installed a new section on the bottom of the front page that provides a rundown of local news and sports articles. This replaces a previous section filled with state and national news.

    As for the archives, they are currently being worked on. It is my goal to have every article available on the previous website ported to the current site and be searchable. Due to limited development resources, we are still several weeks away from completing that goal. Once development resourcees are freed up from site conversions, I expect this process to speed up.

    Right now, I am preparing info to be sent to our developers to restore some previous article links. As this is a manual process, it cannot be completed for every article, of which there are thousands.

    As for your last statement, I welcome any and all phone calls. My number is 964-5473.

    Keep in mind, anytime I spend talking on the phone is only going to detract from the time I have to work on; archives, the malfunctioning search (which is why you cannot find articles on A Place), RSS issues, local news display, staff training, and posting news.

    -Matt

    Reply
  9. Short Seller April 9, 2008 at 14:03

    Agree completely with the negative sentiment about the Progress site. Media General did a poor job redesigning the Times-Dispatch site, and I almost never visit that anymore. I’m already noticing my usage of the Progress’s site going from once a day to once or twice a week.
    There seems to be a desire by some media companies to create sites that jam as much content as possible into a small space without any concern for the customer experience. As another poster said, the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times are great examples of the right way to do things simply.

    Reply
  10. Jim Duncan April 9, 2008 at 14:23

    I’ll go ahead and take credit for the WSJ and NYT comment!

    Matthew –

    Thank you for participating in the discussion and for being so responsive to the requests. I hate to say it, but I have to agree with Mr. Brannick and Short Seller.

    The good news that I see coming from this is that people really do care about having easily-accessible information from the Daily Progress, and seeing that they are currently failing miserably (again, sorry) they are expressing those opinions.

    Reply
  11. Matthew Rosenberg April 9, 2008 at 14:36

    I am big boy and welcome criticism, but complaining about the design is akin to punching a mountain and expecting it to flinch.

    I didn’t design it, I cannot change the design, and the design is not going to change for quite a while. I will make your comments known to the powers-that-be in Richmond.

    Right now my focus is on the archives and preserving as much information as possible. Thankyou all for your comments.

    -Matt

    Reply
  12. Jim Duncan April 10, 2008 at 06:34

    Matt –

    Thank you again for your efforts. While I hold firm in my opinions about the site, I appreciate that the local news is now relatively accessible at the bottom of the homepage.

    Can I start complaining about the font after you get the archives back? 🙂

    Reply
  13. Matthew Rosenberg April 10, 2008 at 07:46

    LOL,

    If only people needed my permission to complain, my sanity would be much improved. Complain away, I will fix what I can and pass along the rest.

    Reply
  14. Andrea April 10, 2008 at 09:57

    Jim, I was disappointed to see this blog headline on your site. It is evident from your responses to Matthew Rosenberg and your previous participation in other strings on CVilleNews.com that you have been engaged with the Daily Progress web folks since the launch by giving feedback and necessary criticism. That’s wonderful, and I appreciate your generous contribution to help them get it right. What I don’t understand is your motivation and desired result for this post, at this time, to tell your readers that you have given up on the DailyProgress.Com.

    In all fairness, I don’t believe that your comparison of the DailyProgress.Com to the NYTimes and WashingtonPost sites is reasonable. Those organizations have resources so far above and beyond that of Media General, and the Daily Progress in particular, that comparing their ability to better manage the transition between sites doesn’t seem fair.

    I AGREE that the NYTimes.Com site has a terrific and easy format – a suggestion that this is a good format/layout to consider for our Daily Progress.Com would be on-point, and I support that suggestion completely. But to fuss at results due to the fact that the DP’s parent company didn’t provide the same level of support, personnel, developers, etc., as those news behemoths is unfair. I don’t recall an announcement that you were going to stop using CAAR.com because they changed their site many months ago (and a good portion of it STILL doesn’t look right), and you yourself have acknowledged in the past that in changing your blog site that there are sometimes difficulties in the transition between technologies. Personally, my company has built sites for others, one of which is STILL being fixed after two weeks of repair. All of these issues are the result of limited resources.

    My point with those examples is that given the painfully tight resources of the Daily Progress.Com, I think they deserve a little slack. Rosenberg in particular gets kudos for handling this barrage of criticism with a high degree of professionalism and patience.

    And really – we’re ALL still getting our news for FREE online, despite the fact that such content IS costly to produce.

    Reply
  15. Jim Duncan April 10, 2008 at 11:25

    Andrea –

    Thank you so much for the comment.

    To address your concerns –

    First, caar.com is an abomination that I have been trying to get fixed behind the scenes for MONTHS to no avail. Apparently they’re still working on it though. The reason I didn’t mention that site publicly is because generally the public doesn’t use it; mycaar.com is great and gets compliments all the time.

    An organization the size of the DP/Media General should, in my opinion, test things out better before they go live. I appreciate their desire to innovate and improve, but the current incarnation is not the result.

    Regarding my motivation for the post – I sincerely want them to improve and provide the public information in an accessible format and this is again not the case (yet). Sometimes public pressure is the best method to demonstrate that people care.

    The comparison between me/my site and Media General is off-base. I’m one person; they are a big “media” company that should be able to put together a functional website. I mentioned the NYTimes because they use WordPress and they have a clean site focused on presenting the content and information in a way that is easily accessible.

    Regarding Matthew – he gets nothing but accolades from me, and I assume everyone else. He has been candid and responsive and has actually fixed many, many of the issues – quickly, I might add. Without his participation here and at cvillenews, I’d likely have just written off the DP from the get-go; he has given me a little bit of hope and expectation that they will fix things.

    Reply
  16. Matthew Rosenberg April 10, 2008 at 12:00

    Andrea,

    Thanks very much for posting your support of the website and the staff here.

    Thank you also to Jim and others in the online community for their continuing feedback.

    I am continuing to address many of the concerns already voiced to the best of my ability. I can also say for certain that the community response does have effect in Richmond and has already helped make a case for changes on the website. The archive issue is under the microscope largely because of the community reaction.

    That’s all I have time for now as I have a meeting with the mothership. Just know that I appreciate everybody’s feedback.

    Well, maybe not the ones that just say the sucks. Those make me drink more.

    Reply
  17. Andrea April 10, 2008 at 14:13

    Thanks, Jim, for your detailed response. I truly do appreciate the amount of your OWN time you have put into helping all of our local online news media improve – one could almost call your time a charitable donation of professional services and claim the tax deduction!

    Matthew – Your next drink is on me.

    Reply
  18. Matthew Rosenberg April 10, 2008 at 15:24

    A couple of notes on the day.

    I have completed work on a new content well on the front page. It gives a quick run down of local news and sports similar to the top of our last website. It can be found by scrolling past the Continuous News Desk under the header “Local News and Sports”. This is actually a widget that is available for your website upon request.

    If you feel that scrolling down to the bottom of the page is too much effort, simply click the “more news” link under the main news headlines. That will direct you to a drill down of all local news in chronological order.

    I hope this helps.

    Reply
  19. Matthew Rosenberg April 18, 2008 at 09:22

    Ok folks,

    Yesterday we launched NewsVirginian.com into the new template and CMS. So thus begins debugging week with the developers.

    Here is a brief list of fixes I am working on. Feel free to email me with anything not on teh list. Keep in mind that we cannot implement large design changes. These are not listed in any particular order except the archive and search issue is at the top of the list.

    Archives not complete.
    Search capability not fully functional.
    RSS feed time stamps.
    RSS feeds over 100 articles.
    Validated RSS feed for specific categories.
    Print article produces screen shot.
    Remove registration to email article.
    Remove underlining from headlines and navigation except on hover.
    Continuous News Desk not displaying properly in FireFox.
    Fix paragraphing on articles.
    Allow personal messages in email article field.

    Reply
  20. Jim Duncan April 19, 2008 at 07:59

    Matt –

    Thank you so much for letting us know.

    Please add to the list that in the RSS feeds, when you click through on the title, the story does not go to the intended target, but when you click within the RSS feed to the “more” it does.

    Reply
  21. Matthew Rosenberg April 21, 2008 at 10:48

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. What RSS feed are you referring to. I checked a few and the title link seems to be working as expected.

    Reply
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