Once again I have attempted to be a customer of a news organization’s online advertising system, and once again I am left wondering if such systems were designed by incompetents or sadistic, anti-journalism geniuses bent on our industry’s destruction. Part of my local paper’s attempt to combat craigslist is to offer free ads to anyone seeking to unload things for $300 or less. I have a couple of pieces of furniture, they have gotten no response on craigslist, and I’m not yet ready to just donate them to the thrift store, so I thought I’d place one of these “Cool Cheap Stuff!” ads (yes, there’s no comma between cool and cheap, so immediately you know no one ran the page’s name past anyone who got good grades for grammar and punctuation). The page in the paper says the online system for placing an ad is “easy-to-use” (again, yes, it is hyphenated even though it is not modifying anything) and available 24 hours a day. Turns out, it is neither.
As a potential customer, the whole experience left me exasperated.
As a news person, it absolutely enraged me. If I did my job as badly as the person who designed that ad system did his, everything that passed in front of me would be rearranged and rendered into dingbat symbols. On the news side, we have to give everything at least a second look, usually more. The equivalent online I would think would be answering the question, “Does this thing work?” Because no, this thing did not work. If getting revenue from online operations is the future of the news business, this kind of thing fills me with despair for the future.