Back in 2009, Advance Publications shut down the 174-year-old daily Ann Arbor News, unveiled a new website named AnnArbor.com, dropped a lot of Jarvis-esque buzzwords, and started a “new” twice-a-week paper it called AnnArbor.com with fewer than half the journalists the old News had.
Advance is now about to fold AnnArbor.com (the website) into MLive.com, the company’s Michigan portal based on its hideous website template. This is what’s on the homepage of MLive as I type. Prepare to shield your eyes:
Meantime, AnnArbor.com (the paper) will have its name changed back to The Ann Arbor News. Advance, of course, is the same company that brought its “Michigan Model” to New Orleans in a Great Leap Forward that has been mostly walked back, as well, though not before the backlash turned the city into a two-newspaper town for the first time in three decades.
The changes have actually been afoot for sometime. When AnnArbor.com/MLive brass declined to talk to me for a story last fall, I popped in to headquarters to check out the “newsroom cafe,” which was the buzz du jour of the digital-firsties at the time. After all, Ann Arbor had been promised a “a welcoming and interactive atmosphere at this office” (thanks, Wayback Machine!):
The first floor will have free wireless Internet access. We’ll have comfortable couches and chairs to foster a relaxed environment where local folks can gather to discuss news and events, or simply surf the Web. Additionally, there will be a conference room that local groups may reserve as scheduling permits.
A receptionist looked at me like I was from Mars when I asked where I could set up, and she said the public was no longer invited in.
But never fear, Ann Arborites, because MLive now uses AnnArbor.com’s innovations….er… best practices, which include highlighting local news of interest:
“MLive Media Group has adopted AnnArbor.com’s best practices, such as prioritizing the top, local news of the day. This integration allows us to deliver MLive’s best practices, including advanced mobile technology, to our readers in Ann Arbor,” said Champion, now general manager of southeast Michigan for MLive Media Group.
With such proactive, outside-the-box change agents blue-skying the disruption in Michigan, MBA-speak at least will have its way. Ann Arbor will be watching closely to see if the acorn survives.Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: Advance Publications, Ann Arbor News, AnnArbor.com, future of news, Newhouses