Yesterday there was a post on Gawker about how Editor & Publisher, where I used to work, was launching a new column for younger journalists, called -31-. The unintentional humor in the piece was that the column was going to have "blog-like comments" since the content management system at E&P couldn't handle comments, or video for that matter. The piece went on to say that due to staff shortages, hot links and other features that are common to even the simplest of blogging tools, E&P would have to post the comments manually.
In case you were wondering, I am that staff shortage. I was the online editor for E&P for nine months before I was lost in a round of layoffs at Nielsen, its parent company. My job was to make sure the site looked as 21st century as possible. From day one I complained about the CMS, which made users type in HTML code manually and couldn't handle embedded code for video. In short, it was very 1998. I complained to anyone who would listen that if they didn't upgrade their system, readers were going to go elsewhere, since web users expect a certain benchmark of basic features on a site.
There's a lesson in all this. Traffic at E&P isn't going down because the newspaper industry is in a bind. Traffic is going down because their web site lives in a time warp, and someone in the pipeline is too cheap to redesign and upgrade it. Anyone with half a brain knows that the web is not some "special project" to hand over to an intern or maybe some of the less bright members on staff. It's the first impression people have of your brand, and you should invest all you can in it. E&P is one of the oldest brands in the newspaper business, and it boggles my mind that the Nielsen company doesn't see the value in it.