Nashville City Paper launches blogs (good) and an extremely awful thing called the e-paper

The Nashville City Paper has launched four weblogs focusing on pop culture, sports, politics and style

That’s all good. Can’t have enough Nashville blogs — and local blog-veteran Bill Hobbs helped out on their launch, so they have a good start.

On the other hand, the paper has also launched something called the e-Paper which is, to put it politely, perhaps the worst publishing platform one can imagine — sorry, guys.

In that never-ending belief print people have that readers want the web to be more “print-like,” the City Paper’s “e-paper” (which uses a platform from Olive Software) ends up being something that treats the user like an idiot. Here’s the idea: flip through pages of the newspaper, so you get to see the ads on the page and the banner ads surrounding the pages you are flipping through.

While I’ve been “won over” to some digital-magazine platforms due to the innovative ways they’ve evolved their user experience and have added features that truly bridge the online and print experience, the City Paper’s “e-paper” is not a good model for any print publication to follow.

There is nothing about it — nothing — that’s the least bit appealing.

Later: As someone from the platform company has asked for some suggestions from me, I will be expanding on this topic later.

(via: Nashville is Talking’s guest-blogger Laura.)

  • Thanks for the compliment on the City Paper blogs. I had fun with that project, and I think they’re going to do interesting things with them.

  • I’m not enamored of the e-paper, either, but I understand the business logic – to protect the value of print ad space in an increasingly online world. The City Paper isn’t the only paper using the Olive e-paper software. Other papers are trying other things to put their print content online for “free” without undermining the value of the print-edition advertising. What will work? Will anything work? That’s the big question. My focus with the fine folks at the City Paper is to help them use the blogs as a value-adding tool, rather than just an online version of the print edition.

    One example of how a paper can do that: The print edition of a story about, say, Fred Thompson visiting Nashville last week, carries one or maybe two photos. But the photographer shot many more photos. And the reporter probably has a lot of good stuff in his notebook that didn’t go in the paper. And the reporter’s digital audio recorder might have 5 minutes of good interview stuff, even though the print story has just four sentences of a quote.

    I’d advise in that case that the reporter file the print story, end it with a tagline that says something like, “For additional photos, information, quotes and audio from Fred’s visit, see our blog….” and give the web address.

    The print story needs to be a “complete” story – not just a teaser for the blog – but the blog can give the most interested subset of the print story’s readership a deeper trove of information. A paper that consistently does that with its blogs – rather than just use them as the discard bin for boring press releases, or a way to “tease” stories that will be in the next print edition – will draw good traffic, build a loyal following – and make money selling online ad space.

    I’m going to be writing more about the City Paper’s Nashville City Blogs” project at in the weeks ahead…

  • Pingback: Value-Added Blogging | Mesh Media Strategies()

  • Rex Hammock

    Bill, there is nothing in your scenario that requires the “e-paper” platform. I’m all for what you’re talking about — the filling out of the story, the addition of video, extra photography, etc. It’s the ridiculous belief that what is online needs to replicate — and in this case, in a poorly executed fashion — what is in print.

  • Rex Hammock

    By “replicate,” I mean in a graphical sense. There is no reason the online version needs to look like the print version. Again, I am in great support of what Bill is talking about — adding to the story by using blogs. My criticism is 100% focused on another thing the City Paper is doing: the misguided e-paper.

  • Yishay Yovel

    [Disclosure: I am affilated with Olive Software, and I am interested in opinions about its products, esp. negative ones, because I think that how you learn the most on how to improve them].


    I wonder waht you do see as “valuable” in other digital magazines. Can you discuss that?

    Assuming some people would like to access news in a paper format (becuase the editorial and organization value add), how would you improve the experience olive offers to make it better?

    What would it take to make you read an e-paper?



  • Rex Hammock

    Yishay, I appreciate you jumping in here and there are some people who read this blog from other digital publication platforms who will tell you that I can be “won-over.” I am focusing my comments on the City Paper’s execution of their e-paper on your platform. I apologize if their execution is not a good example of your platform. Later today or tomorrow, I will post a detailed explanation of exactly why I think the City Paper’s e-paper is not a good strategy for a print publication to follow online. And I will offer some examples of how a digital publication may be a good ancillary or extension of a print publication. Time doesn’t permit to do so now, but I will later.

  • Albie Del Favero

    Rex, thanks for your comments, both positive and negative, about our new website and specifically about the e-paper. Before you further expound on the subject, however, you should probably know more about the business strategy behind the e-paper. Our long-term plan here is to become a completely online product. When that happens depends on how quickly local advertisers shift dollars from traditional local media to online. The e-paper is an intermediary step in our plan. As a free paper, we rely on our print ads for about 99% of our revenues. Because of that we need to make sure those ads are seen, and the best way to do that–as we slowly reduce our print circulation–is through a product like the e-paper. I wish I could stop putting out a print edition tomorrow and go entirely online, but until local advertisers, who constitute about 90% of our advertiser base, wake up to the power of online advertising, I can’t. So, it has nothing at all to with a “ridiculous belief that online needs to replicate…what is in print.” We fully realize that some readers aren’t going to like the e-paper. But unfortunately, if they want to continue to read our content, they’re going to have to put up with it–at least until such time as local advertisers have online ad budgets that can support the extensive costs involved in putting out a general interest daily newspaper. In my mind it’s a very small price for some readers to pay to have an alternative to the Tennessean. And I believe as long as we keep publishing compelling content, our online readers will pay that price.

  • Rex Hammock

    Albie (the publisher of the City Paper): Longtime readers of this blog will know which sentences in your post that I would rip into if you weren’t my friend (note to readers: and not just the “professional courtesy” type friend, but the real kind). However, I believe that what the e-paper does display (as does your comment), is a misguided belief that advertising online has to replicate advertising in print to be perceived as valuable. In my original post, I celebrated the types of things I believe you are doing to convince readers and advertisers that you have something online that is of great value: blogging, video, audio. As I will try to explain in my later post — which I’ve decided to do as video to demonstrate why print publications shouldn’t do what you are doing with the “e-paper” — that digital publications can be something that are both to readers and advertisers.

  • Pingback: Rex Hammock’s weblog » Blog Archive » Digital publications, good and bad (a video post)()