B.GillisHere's my two cents and I'm gonna throw alot of shit out there so bare with me ..
Personally I feel that the news section on NS has gone downhill this year for multiple reasons.
For starters I really lost alot of interest in reading and writing articles when the amount of ads on the article pages started to intensify. I understand that ad revenue plays an important role for the website but for fucks sake I can go on cheap asian porn sites and see less shit ads. Put them on the top of the article, put them on the bottom, put them on the side but don't put them in the middle of the text. In my opinion it looks cheap as fuck and ghetto as fuck. I'm casually strolling along reading a nice article and all of a sudden the red sea opens up to play some whack ass black diamond ad. It slows everything down and really just detracts from the professionalism. Not that NS is a wall street journal or anything but it seems tough to get respect when you have more ads than pictures in an article.
I think one of the bigger let downs for me this year has been the lack of variety in articles and I think a big factor in the lack of variety is the size of the journalism team. I also feel like there has been a lack of quality in a quality vs quantity type of sense and I can also attribute this to having a smaller team.
Pretty much everyone on here who contributes and wants to write has a life to worry about first and foremost and this is the main reason a bigger team helps out. I feel like with more people in the contributing pool then there is less pressure on people to put out stuff every day/week. I know anyone can contribute at anytime but I always felt like being part of a team would entice people to write more often. You don't even have to pay everyone, just give them a purple name and let them feel special enough and they'll contribute. Say you have a team of 8-10 and half of those guys write an article weekly and the other half write one monthly or bi weekly, either way the more people contributing the more variation. This year it seems like it's just twig, lameboy and an occasional erica/sklar/krotch mixed in when they have time.
As for quality/quantity I really haven't been seeing any longer deep read type articles this season. The past few articles sklar has put out are pretty much what I'm looking for along those lines. Not just something that can be tossed together in 30 minutes but something that takes some thought. I understand the need for long and short articles but I feel like it's mostly just been bloggy short type stuff and no balance. Again if you have more people contributing then this balance should be easier to achieve. With 3-4 people blogging daily or every other day then the rest of the crew would be free to work on longer thought out pieces in between their daily jobs or classes etc. I'd rather see 2 quality articles a week rather than 10 articles about slvsh cup or FIS sucking or degenerate skiers who do degenerate skier things.
Just food for thought and I have alot more where that came from but I gotta get back to work now.
patagonialukeYeah that's one thing I've noticed as well. It really messes with the flow of an article, especially when trying to write one. Ads before and/or after would be my vote, the ones in the middle throw me off a bit.
As far as content goes, my favorite news articles have always been trip reports or personal event coverage and interviews with industry folk. Anyone can reword a press release, but getting a unique perspective on an event, organization, or person is always really cool.
VinnieFsomething to throw into this thread: advertisements should not be news (like the recent one about the pivot binding with the tech toe piece).
The easiest thing here to tackle is the Cast binding situation. They essentially posted up their press release, members got stoked and up voted it. As Doug mentioned, he's been tweaking the algorithm and that got voted to the top. Do you think we should have prevented it from doing so even though it earned the spot organically (I'm not saying that is a bad idea, just genuinely asking)?
Moving on to more complicated matters... the ads and the content. The new(ish) in-article ads are essentially spaced out by word count, though they are programmed not to appear in the middle of paragraphs etc. They are actually more or less an attempt to deal with the other problems you outlined (which I'll get to later). Until that new advertising layout was launched, an article earned the same ad revenue whether it was 200 words or 2000. So an in depth article that takes 20 hours of writing to put together, but gets 3000 views would earn the site the same as the piece that takes an hour and gets the same view count. The in-article ads mean the longer article loads 5 or so times more ads, earns more money and is therefore easier to justify spending the time working on.
My personal opinion is that I don't like how they look either, I've definitely bitched at Doug about it a few times myself. We're working on ways to streamline them more, try and make them less obnoxious etc. But in a day an age where print mags are dying out, fewer people read and even fewer want to pay for ads or pay for the content itself, it's not easy. Can you think of a better way of upping the ad revenue on bigger pieces but in a cleaner way? Because we would love to know, we lifted this look straight from other news outlets.
Which brings me to the second issue, the type of content. And again, I don't entirely disagree but your solution is the solution we tried before and it failed. The situation is this. We need a regular and predictable flow of content, good content. We tried relying on the community and that failed. We tried getting in a bunch of people who would occasionally write something in the manner you suggested, and that failed too. What happened was that me and Matt K wrote something like 80% of all the news and everyone else, due to their having a life and responsibilities, just didn't write regularly enough.
So Doug hit the reset, hired me (and Matt/Evan) and tasked us with a regular content flow. We now pay flat rate for articles to our team based on length and we are actively looking for more people to join it (though the season is now over, so we're talking about for September, if you really want to do this, contact me!). They write to deadlines and get paid quickly. I manage the whole thing and write a large chunk of the news on top of it. It takes me probably 10-12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week but the results, by the numbers at least, have been good. The news side of the site has actually outperformed video at various times this year and has been by some margin, the most successful it has ever been overall. I'm not just talking about view counts and revenue by the way. Page depth is way up, time on page is significantly up too.
But this is definitely a work in progress. I'd be the first to agree we need more long form content and it's something we're looking to grow, because that is the type of content I want to read. I want to read about someone going to Iceland or Corsica and shredding somewhere I've not seen it before. I was stoked on Luke's trip report, and I would love to see more. I even had a couple of trips on deck myself to produce content that got cancelled because I blew my knee in January. I did one piece on China, was that more like what you were looking for (even though it was also a contest)?
I sit down and I read Powder and think, why the fuck aren't we doing stuff like this. But then I look at the numbers and realise that it's because guys like us are a massive minority. I'm stoked on the few things Sklar has been able to put out lately and those have largely come about because (finally) there is some money for me to play with getting people to write that kind of thing (because the rest of the numbers have been good and because there are more ads in longer articles). It still performs significantly less well than stuff like contest coverage, rider profiles and breaking news posts. But the more the news continues to grow, the more we will be able to do both kinds of writing. I'm hoping that next winter will bring a better balance, we're going to spend a lot of the summer trying to make sure it does.
I'd like to sign off this by saying that if writers/photographers want to get involved, please reach out to me (email@example.com) or PM me with some examples of your work, what you want to do etc. We set up a brand new (public) content forum to hopefully bring some new people in. We want your stories and I would 100% love to see more variety here but nobody has stepped up to the plate thus far. Those of you who want to see these changes, we need you to be part of the solution.
**This post was edited on Apr 12th 2017 at 9:05:16am