Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Vegas Media's Mobile Troubles

UPDATE: As of Friday morning, the RJ had turned off its mobile redirect function, presumably to fix it. So far, neither KSNV nor KLAS have made any changes.

So the Review-Journal now has a mobile site for smart phones in so-called "beta" form. This was as promised by Michael Hengel, the new editor, in my interview last month. Great.

Except there's one itsy bitsy problem, as Hunter Hillegas first pointed out to me and has blogged: It doesn't work.

Watch what happens. Say I see their columnist, Steve Sebelius, tweet links stories like so:

And say I am intrigued by Brian Sandoval's secret plan to raise taxes or must know whether the DoJ will indict John Ensign. I click on those links and I get...

...nothing relevant. I'm directed to the main menu for the R-J's mobile site. If you're lucky enough that the story you're after is still atop the pile, you win! If not, bummer! This also happens when you get a full story link, so it's not a function of the shortened URLs on Twitter. Try it. It's fun! And renders the mobile thing worthless.

Now, it would be all too easy to just beat up on the R-J, as Jon Ralston is congenitally inclined. But his own TV station has exactly the same problem. It's funny, too, because Ralston apologized via Twitter for a "bad link" to video of the mayoral debate he hosted yesterday...

...but it's not the link that's the problem. It's that MyNews3.Com's mobile site forces everyone on a smartphone here:

In fact, none of the Vegas MSM mobile sites work quite right. Channel 8, KLAS-TV, has the same R-J and KSNV issue where you end up here...

...rather than on the story you're seeking. In fact, Channel 8's mobile landing is so busy, you don't even see any headlines, much less the one you want to find. It's nice that you can get the "classic" version, but you still end up on the front page, not at the story someone told you on Twitter or via email was worth your attention. By the time I'm there, I don't care anymore and I leave. Fail.

KTNV is better. Someone sends you a link to a specific story and, lo and behold, you are rerouted to that story:

My problem with KTNV, however, is that you don't get a link or any obvious way of watching the report. It's on the proper website, but not readily available on the mobile version. At the very bottom, there is this...

...but if you click on video, you get the general video menu of stories. Seeing how these are TV stations, you'd think they'd want you to see the TV version of the report.

Fox 5 is the only one that doesn't have a mobile site, but at least you end up on the right page with the right story and all the rest of the content they provide including the video.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Sun has a problem of its own that's similar to KTNV's. Yes, you end up being re-routed to the story you're trying to find. But that's it. Yesterday, for instance, Ralston reported that Mayor Oscar Goodman had sent out a self-congratulatory and thinly veiled Carolyn campaign flier at taxpayer expense. So I go to the link on my iPhone and I see Ralston inform me in his final sentence... see the mailer "at right." And I looked. All I saw was my coffee cup. It wasn't there. Granted, they have a fix for that; you can switch to the normal site and it takes you to the correct story with all the content. But why should I have to do that? Why can't I find the link to the document a journalist wants to show me wherever I land?

I haven't poked around yet in the TV stations' smart phone applications. (Neither newspaper has one yet, although Hengel made it sound like the R-J would debut its any minute now.) That's worthwhile, and I'll take a look soon.

But it's also not relevant to this topic. The idea of a mobile site is to make it easier for people to see the content they're seeking in a format conducive to the device on which they seek it. If you're not going directly to the story you want, if you can't see the video or the important illustrations and attachments that come along with it, you've failed.

Come on, guys. I'm heading outta town. Let's hope when I get where I'm going, I'll be able to keep up without having to try this hard. Or is that what you're trying to sabotage?


Anonymous said...

This might touch a nerve given Miles' employment situation, but one shouldn't expect much from Channel 3's mobile site given that its standard Internet site is such a mess. If you log on there from a desktop it's still a terrible site, with hard to find links and a mishmashed design.

I've spoken to several people who work there who've also said as much. For a site that was overhauled not too long ago, it really comes up short.

Jeff in OKC said...

I had become addicted to Face To Face with Jon Ralston via iTunes, however it took 7 to 35 days before an episode was available. I was excited when I bought an iPad because I thought I would be able to watch it from the site within a day or two of being first broadcast. No such luck. If I want to see the story about the latest bus stop drive by shooting-no problem. But watching he best local political issue program in America? No chance.