October 18, 2011

The New ProJo.com

Patrick Laverty

Yesterday afternoon, the Providence Journal released their long-awaited new web site. Now the projo.com URL will redirect to providencejournal.com.
We've been hearing radio and television commercials about the value of the local media. The commercials explain that Pulitzers don't pay the mortgage. So the folks at the Journal will need to institute a pay wall.

The Providence Journal news organization is moving to the paid eEdition to protect the investment it makes every day in gathering and publishing Rhode Island news.
Even the NYTimes realized a while back that they needed to charge for content, though they also realized that requiring payment to see anything more than headlines could be a death knell for the site. The NYT allows users to read their ten most popular stories free of charge every day. I'm not sure if the Journal will do something similar, as they don't indicate that they will.
At first, the eEdition will be free to all web users, to allow them to see how it works. "People can experiment with it," Sutton said. After about a month, a paid subscription will be needed to view the eEdition.
As for the new design of the site, I'm certainly not sold. If you want to see a great design of an online newspaper, look at Tom Ward's Breeze Observer newspapers. Their design is clean, easy to find what you're looking for and appealing, while including advertising that is non-intrusive.

The Journal's site on the other hand feels very 1998 to me. The Journal is the main paper for the state of Rhode Island and much of southern New England but when you view the new web site, it's not very inspiring, information is still pretty hard to find and the first things you see are ads. There is an ad banner across the top and ads down both sides around the content.

The actual content on the home page is in a space of 380 pixels wide. Ok, as Dan Yorke often says, that's inside baseball. How big is 380 pixels? Well you can see for yourself, but people are buying bigger monitors with increased resolution. Look at some of the more common sites and how big they chose to make their sites. Data from 2009 shows the White House made their site 1006 pixels wide. Most are in the 900s.

Today, the most common width of a screen resolution is 1280 pixels. Yet the Providence Journal chose to use about 1/3 of that size for the part of their site that people are looking for.

There are other little questions I have about some of the decisions made. For example, what is an "Index", shown in the last navigation button on the right. If you click on it, it is a site map in web terminology. It is an index if you're using print terminology. This makes me to think the print side of the house is making decisions on the web design.

If you're looking for editorials, where are those? Everyone that I asked this to initially went to the Topics menu. However, it's actually under RI Speaks as are their blogs. The ProJo blogs were probably one of their most popular and commonly used parts of their web site. The "7 to 7 News Blog" is where they often posted the latest breaking news and where you could get caught up on the news quickly. It was prominent on the old site, now the blogs section is hidden and the "7 to 7" seems to be gone.

Lastly, look at the Sports menu button. Keeping in mind that this is the Providence Journal, look at the options you have under Sports. No mention of the Providence Bruins or the Pawtucket Red Sox. They have the Bruins and Red Sox. If you click on either of those, it takes you to a page with the headline of Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox. So they can't even make the argument that both Bruins teams or both Red Sox teams are included in that menu.

I understand the issue that the company is up against. The ads model that they thought could support the business just wasn't enough to sustain them, so they're giving away a lot of content for free or after the ad revenue is figured in, at a very discounted price. However as long as we have sites like cnn.com for my national news and the Valley Breeze for my local news, and the Journal's web site isn't very easy to use, I think this redesign was a swing and miss.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Completely disappointed.

I mean, I've never liked the editorial page, and the company has been owned and operated from my favorite (sarc) state of Texas for quite a long time now. And my love for conglomerated media in general (Newscorp AND MSNBC included) holds no bounds...

But I guess I'll never read the Projo again under this new format. Which is kinda fine since RIF will let me know whenever there's some progressive meeting where little will actually be accomplished, and you folks will generally let me know when a politician has done something stupid (which I may or may not agree with).

Question: How many RI'ers does the Projo employ? I've only met Kathy Gregg and maybe 3-5 other reporters.

I personally wouldn't care if they went under due to poor decision-making, but how much would it actually hurt RI?

Posted by: jparis at October 18, 2011 10:52 AM

jparis, being a reader of RIF, you probably know of one of the commenters over there who either does or did work for the ProJo advertising dept. She'd probably be the person to ask how many are employed.

Posted by: Patrick at October 18, 2011 11:00 AM

Dear Patrick:
While I thank you for the kind mention, The Valley Breeze web sites look good because of Bruce McCabe. I give him the hat tip, and my thanks. As for the Providence Journal, I wish them well, despite pixels, page views and the like. I can't imagine our state without the daily Journal watching the Statehouse and so much more. I wish them all the best, and I intend to remain a loyal subscriber. Nothing in media is what it used to be, but they are still worth every penny, every day, in my view.

Posted by: Tom Ward at October 18, 2011 11:21 AM

I will no longer be reading ProJo.com. I have moved on to GoLocalProv which has better reporting, faster coverage of breaking news and a TV component. I truly think it was this upstart that hastened the demise of ProJo. RIP – I will look to GoLocal from here on out!

Posted by: Todd at October 18, 2011 2:15 PM

The new layout seems to simultaneously eat as much screen real-estate AND show me as little content at a time as possible. It's pretty awesome if you're a masochist.

I thought the old site was bad, but this is a dramatic re-imagining of 'bad'. At least before it was 'ugly but functional'.

Even the New York Times site leaves much to be desired for online news. Bloggers really have a much better grip on how to do this sort of thing. Wouldn't it be more productive to have the newspaper companies hire developers to add the features they want to existing products like Wordpress?

Posted by: mangeek at October 18, 2011 2:22 PM

The only paper I read is the online WSJ and I pay for it. I don't see the ProJo's news and editorial content luring me back short of wholesale changes.
Years ago I was told by a commenter at buzzfeed.com that the WSJ has a completely separate online newsroom, not just a group that translated the paper's content and uploaded it.

Posted by: chuckR at October 18, 2011 2:45 PM

I cancelled my Providence Journal subscription about 8 years, so I was curious to see how their new "eEdition" would look on my iPad. So, I clicked the "eEdition" button was greeted with "device not supported" error message. The tech/development staff at the Projo thought it was a good idea not to support the iPad for the "eEdition"? Hello?

Posted by: JP at October 18, 2011 7:10 PM

I sent this earlier today.

Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:12 PM
To: 'PJ Letters'
Cc: 'Whitcomb, Robert Jr.'
Subject: You know it's a bad re-launch when...

You know it’s a bad re-launch when:

• You launch the new web site in the middle of the day, with no notice whatsoever
• Site users have virtually no access to the content they were accessing just five minutes before
• The new site has nowhere near as much content as the old site
• The thread with the most comments is the one announcing the new site – and they’re mostly negative
• The new “celebrated” eEdition isn’t available till almost 7:00 am, yet my print edition was sitting on my doorstep at 4:30 am
• The print edition relegates “U.S and World News” to the “D” section, while Sports is in the “B” section
• Even the Classifieds section comes before the National News
• The Editorials and Opinion section, namely, the voice of the people, is prioritized dead last in the “D” section
• A long term subscriber to both home delivery and the old ProJo site is now wondering whether he wants any part of either

Mark Poirier

Posted by: MGP is my name at October 18, 2011 7:45 PM

"Editorials" are mentioned in this post,and are the sole reason I look at the Projo site. Despite extensive searching of the new site, I was unable to find them. Even the site directs you to "US & World" to find them. I went there, no editorials.

I won't miss that awful woman, although I did enjoy the comments to her pieces. It is unfortunate to have to bid adieu to Mr. Brussart, Dr. Aronson and Col. Getchell. Their columns were always informative. I guess I will have to hang up my screen name.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at October 18, 2011 9:06 PM


I, too, inquired about the Editorials/Outside Contributors yesterday, right after the launch. This is what I received from one of the editors:

But as part of our content change:

If you want to read editorials, columnists and contributors, however, you will now have to do through the eEdition, which is on a free trial

We will be posting letters to the editors for free.

We are now checking through the entire site to make sure our content is up to date.

Posted by: MGP at October 18, 2011 9:31 PM

The 7 to 7 blog seems to have been renamed Breaking News. The link to More Breaking News below headlines in their middle column goes to it. Why won't you let me add the link?

Why is there a URL line on your comments form if you must leave it blank?

Posted by: Louie at October 19, 2011 9:31 AM

The Projo has become completely irrelevant, as it seems it didn't enjoy the level of discourse from the posters against it's columns. Nice to see some familiar faces here.

Posted by: kingj at October 19, 2011 11:16 AM

"The 7 to 7 blog seems to have been renamed Breaking News. The link to More Breaking News below headlines in their middle column goes to it. Why won't you let me add the link?

Why is there a XXX line on your comments form if you must leave it blank?"

It's a long story.

Meanwhile, if you have a link that you wish to share, paste it into the text area of your comment box and just delete the preceding characters "h_____//" from it. Example below.

However, going back to the new ProJo website, when I went there just now, there was just one article under "Breaking News" and the next item was "Local News" with no link to go to additional "Breaking News".


Posted by: Monique at October 19, 2011 5:40 PM

As a web designer and developer, I wonder how they came up with this "new" site. It feels like it was designed by amateurs in 1998. For folks who know how to produce a pretty good looking print paper, it strikes me as strange that they come up with a design that is hard to use, ugly and slow. Next time, check the work of the people you hire.

Posted by: Steven at October 19, 2011 9:51 PM
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