Vancouver’s new and old media face-off online

The Vancouver Sun [vs] has recently launched a new website, and in the world of city blogs Scout Magazine [sm] has arrived trying to bring the world yet another online magazine.  Is the Sun’s face lift just more rearranging deck chairs on the Hindenburg?  Is Scout Magazine just a blog with more obtrusive advertisements?  With the economy going the way it’s going, does it matter?

The Vancouver Sun

One of two local dailies owned by the same company, yay Canwest, the Sun has always had a shitty website.  Their previous attempt seemed like it was designed before computers by someone who was either blind drunk or drunk and blind.

The Good:

  • Clean layout.
  • More access to stories that appeared in the print version.
  • Blogs.
  • Videos.
  • Someone told them about Twitter.

The Bad:

  • Complete douche bags comment regularly; the same ones who write letters to the editor.
  • It’s still The Vancouver Sun.
  • Giant keg of Heineken pops up every time a page loads.
  • It kind of still feels like watching your grandfather try to Moonwalk.
  • Someone told them about Twitter.

Conclusion:

A nice step forward for the media institution, however it’s still got a ways to go before they’ll really be a great source of online news.  Currently there’s still a usability versus monetization balance to be figured out, and they should spend a bit of/more time studying the Guardian [lg].

Scout Magazine

A new local online magazine?  Will it be a bastion of local reporting like The Tyee [ty], or is the business plan to sell domain name to the Cub Scouts in a few years.

The Good:

  • Slick layout.
  • Local focus.
  • Lots of potential.
  • Who doesn’t love all blogs unconditionally?
  • Nice layout, fairly easy to navigate.
  • Room to grow.
  • Nice photographs.
  • Good focus on local restaurants.

The Bad:

  • Like NowPublic [np] news articles are just large chunks of quotes from actual media outlets.  That’s not reporting, it’s copy and pasting.
  • The writing is uneven.
  • Seems to be more interested in finding a lucrative target market than finding something worth saying.
  • Interviews seemingly conducted via email meme: ie. everything seems to be a “What’s your favorite food.” type question, the kind of thing your friends forward you to post on your blog.
  • A Facebook group, really what is it 2007?
  • Does Beyond Robson [br] know that their layout was stolen and run through a Maxim-filter?

Conclusion:

Done right there’s probably a place to be staked out somewhere between the granola crunch of The Tyee and the major newspapers online.  Scout Magazine tries too hard to find that position.  A lot of the decisions seem to have more to do with tricking Google than providing content, quoting news stories does not mean you have a news section.

Though for one of the most obviously commerical aimed blogs/websites online, the ads are as prevalent as on the Sun’s site, it’s hard understand what they mean by ” Our readers are optimistic about our city and the world without being blind to its problems.”  Aiming for left of centre readers tends to work better if you’re not also describing them as the perfect target market in the next sentance, “They are ‘influencers’…”

Maybe that’s a little cynical, and every publication takes a while to find their feet.  The next couple of months will give Scout Magazine a chance to define itself, and to find a voice.

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