I have a long history with Madison Newspapers, now Capital Newspapers, the corporate home for The Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times and their increasingly intertwined operations, including the combined website, Madison.com. I was a State Journal carrier as a kid, back when kid on bikes delivered papers instead of adults in cars. Both papers published some of my first freelance photos. I was a Cap Times subscriber right up to the bitter end, when the daily print edition went away. But I've had it.
The internet is sweeping through print journalism like a tidal wave. I've long thought that, as local news coverage migrates to the web, daily newspapers are the least likely to emerge as major players on the local scene. They have their legacy print operations that are bleeding money to worry about. Good, user-friendly design has never been their forte and is important on the web. They just don't think in web terms and face a host of competitors who seem more nimble and comfortable with the conventions of the web -- ranging, here in Madison, from Isthmus and Dane 101 to a host of local bloggers and, increasingly, the rapidly improving news websites of the local TV stations, and who benefit from being able to promote those sites on-air.
The redesigned Madison.com is the last straw. Just when I start thinking that, as a disappointed former print edition reader, I may be too hard on them and should be more sympathetic, they prove me right all over again.
It's not mainly the redesign itself, although I find it cluttered and confusing, and it doesn't run well on my older computer -- something that for some reason is not a problem on either TheDailyPage.com locally or NYT.com nationally. It's not even their restricting access to their older archives. Sooner or later, we readers will have to start paying for content in some way, if we want to keep receiving content. (Though I do think they have an obligation to make the archives available -- and affordable -- for libraries.)
No, what really ticks me off is that they broke all the links to their existing content during their website redesign. Every link to a Capital Newspapers story in Letter from Here is dead. This violates one of the most basic tenets of good netiquette -- you don't just break a lot of links for no good reason. Sure, stuff happens and some break over time. But wholesale slaughter like this? Just one more example of how the organization doesn't like or understand the web. To them, I guess it's just a high-tech printing press, to do with as they like.
So that's why I won't be linking to them anymore. I'm just one little blogger, but I suspect I'm not alone. Why link to something that may just disappear with no warning? And that -- broken link by broken link -- is just one more way a website slides into irrelevance. It's a matter of trust.