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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Madison Daily Leader: News by Web Illiterates, for Web Illiterates

I note with amusement that the Madison Daily Leader's Chuck Clement devotes an entire article to the school district's posting of election information on its website. The full information posted by the district:

VOTE April 13th - Madison City Armory from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Voter Registration
Voter registration forms are to be sent to the Lake County Auditor, 200 E. Center St.

Absentee voting:
Absentee voting information and form
Absentee Ballot Form

Three external links and three lines of web content is a news story? I crank out more valuable Web content than that between spoonfuls of raisin bran! Dang, Chuck, where's my coverage?

The Leader management probably still finds it amazing that government and anyone else can publish its own content on the Intertubes. I am reminded of how last week, in his appearance as a political junkie on SDPB, MDL publisher Jon Hunter smoothly sidestepped a question about how he handles user comments on his news website. Why the sidestepping? The Leader has never allowed any user comments!

In further signs of its Web illiteracy, the Leader publishes this story about online information without providing a single functional hyperlink. It's a href, Chuck. Call me. I'll explain.


  1. Kinda makes you frost your britches, doesn't it? It's really kind of funny, absurd, at least. Who knows why people do what they do?

  2. I like the Madison Daily Leader site. I can get the obits and a few things of local interest right away. If I want to get more I can read the paper later on. We are very lucky to have such a progressive publisher as Jon Hunter. He has continued to invest heavily in his business and the Madison community. We have the smallest weekly in SD and one of the last that is locally owned and controlled. While other cities' newspapers face brutal reductions in staff, Jon has continued to provide stable employment for his workers. I worked at the paper for 18 years and I learned a great deal about taking care of business and customers from Jon. You'll still see my name on the byline of sports photos in the paper on a regular basis.

  3. There is very little original content in the MDL. Cory puts out as much and he's one part time guy! Something tells me without equal pay.

    I would much prefer a web only paper or a weekly with only local content. It's only a matter of time. At least once a month I wonder why I still have a subscription. Will that Chrysler Sebring ever sell???

  4. Michael,

    You are right. Jon is a great guy, could not agree with you anymore.

    The MDL is a good newspaper. I know people like to complain a lot (Cory), but the crew there put together a pretty darn good product.

    However, a more online presence would only make the MDL a better publication. If the MDL offered an online subsription, I would be first in line to sign up.

    There are many people around the country with roots in the Madison area and still want to be kept up to date with the doings in Madison.

    A postal subscription to a newspaper is just a disaster. I've tried it and it just plain sucks.

    An online edition, identical to the print edition, advertising and all is the wave of today and the future for that matter.

    Think of all the people that would benifit from this:

    Jon Hunter. More exposure for advertisers = more sales. Not to mention a reduction of costs. Less paper, more subscriptions.

    Locals. On vacation? No sweat. Just find a computer and bingo. Not to mention a younger generation that is used to getting all their information from a computer now.

    Snowbirds. People who cancel during the winter can still get the online edition wherever they are at.

    Our troops overseas. They can keep up to date with the local happenings. A good morale boost.

    Evacuees. People like myself who have left the Madison area, but still want to know how things are going in their hometown.

    Mother Nature. Going green doesn't hurt a thing.

    The technology is in that building to do this, the decision just needs to be made.

  5. Online paper subscriptions do NOT work.


    In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site, newsday.com, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?

    So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to newsday.com?

    The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class.

  6. I think the model that the MDL should look at is the Watertown Public Opinion. They offer an e-edition.

    Everything can be the same, but at least OFFER the e-edition to people.

    The cost would be little or nothing to the company, since they already use the technology to make this happen (PDF files). Why not offer it to the public?

    In the Newsday exaple you cite, look at the region and the compeition that paper has? A little different than South Dakota. People feel more connected to their home towns and still care about them, even after they leave. Which is why an MDL e-edition would go off better than people may think.

  7. Mark, did you not see the numbers? 35 people on a purchase of $650 million. A few more people live there than here. It would not be worth the additional time.

  8. Thanks, John! I'm happy to serve... but I won't turn down donations! ;-)

    And Mark, don't forget to include me on the list people who would benefit from a full e-Leader. I'd be able to link to more news! (And who do you think provides the Leader website with more referrals than any other source? :-D )

  9. There's actually a lot more to the article that MB makes reference. They had 1.5 million new hits to the web site in December alone because a vast number of people had free subscriptions. Local news (and commentary) is a unique product unlike national news. If an on-line format can't be supported entirely by ad revenue people will pay (I sure hope everybody is hitting the tip jar). The Huffington Post is not going to write about Madison and Lake County so a local market will exist, but the vehicle will change. How many people use Kodac film?

  10. Mike,

    You are comparing an apple to an orange.

    The Madison Daily Leader would not have to invest $650 million for an online campaign.

    This time I will put in bold to make my point. THE MADISON DAILY LEADER ALREADY HAS THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO THIS. There is no $650 million dollar investment to make. When the paper is laid out is it not put into a PDF file? The hard work is now done. Hit an upload button on the computer, and whammy, you now have an e-edition of the Madison Daily Leader. Might add another 10 seconds to someones work day. I guess, you're right, not worth anyones time??

    Being a business owner I have learned that to be sucsessful, I need to conform to my customers, not my customers conform to me.

  11. Unless you have worked at a newspaper, you cannot really grasp the capital investment it takes to make it all work. It's a huge commitment to put out a newspaper every day. Smaller papers are not seeing the dramatic losses that big dailies that the Gannett chain owns.

    As a business owner, it makes the most sense to advertise in the paper where I can reach most of my customers. Print still rules for now over almost all other types of advertising.

    And no you just can't dump the broadsheet PDF to the web. It doesn't translate to the computer screen. A page of the paper measures 13 wide by 21 tall.

  12. Mike,

    A couple of mouseclicks and you turn that 300 dpi broadsheet to 72 dpi for easy distribution. A pretty easy task, even for a dummy like me.

  13. I'm with Mark: It's not that hard. The Web is one big Easy Button. Autosave those PDFs to the server... or just dump the text to a blog (this obsession with PDFs really needs to disappear).

  14. Mike, I have to disagree with your statement..."Print still rules for now over almost all other types of advertising". It is rare to find anyone under age 35 who subscribes to a newspaper anymore. Younger demographics are electronic. Subscriptions are down locally to less than 60% of Madison households, so 40% don't subscribe. Your younger families don't subscribe and those are the ones getting married needing photographers. Same is true for radio and TV. Satellite Radio and Cable TV/Direct TV have fragmented audiences to the point it is hard to find a substantial audience of younger viewers or listeners. I agree with you that locally, radio and newspaper are still your most effective method to reach people, but Jon needs to adapt to the fact his current subscribers are getting older, so energizing his website will bring those younger demographics back so advertisers can try to reach them.

  15. So you agree or disagree Rod?

    Madison is a much stronger community because it has a daily newspaper

  16. Chris Francis2/25/2010 8:08 PM

    I do enjoy the Madison Leader,they have been absolutely great for printing our Arts Council's submissions, especially our ongoing Chautauqua Series features. Locally owned papers are often a fresh breath of air,and we are fortunate for this resource. However, I do see the need for a more complete web product, especially one that is well maintained and updated.Those of us under 29 especially, are not likely to start nor maintain a paper subsription, this is a huge potential market for advertisers. Perhaps a free access weekly web-based blog or pdf, with local content only and with paid ads would be a worthwhile venture for Madison and the Leader. Why create a local product with AP stories that I can get elsewhere on the web, it's the local features, stories, and yes local ads, that are of interest to most of us young people.

  17. Mike, I think we are a better-informed community and extremely fortunate to have both a radio station and daily newspaper operating out of our town of 6500. That doesn't mean we can't improve both as information sources. I haven't subscribed to the MDL for years because I got tired of reading too much Associated Press stories or things I already read in the Argus in the morning. Yes, there are local interest stories, and that is the key to maintaining readership of a local paper in this smaller market. Jon needs to add comments to his stories on the web to boost his readership interest, although I suspect Cory would be his number one contributor.


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