Embarassing Dad – the Independent tries blogging

I’m a bit late to this one, with Charles Arthur, Andrew Grant-Adamson, Martin Stabe; and Roy Greenslade all drawing collective gasps and stiffling laughter, but just in case there is anyone interested in the UK media that reads this blog but none of those above…

My god The Independent doesn’t get the Internet.

It has started – yes *started* – some blogs. Well, one collective blog. And it is, frankly, like an embarassing Dad getting up at a wedding and trying to show the kids that he’s still got life in the old legs yet.

Not only is it updated incredibly rarely but the quality of stuff actually posted is dreadful. “Hey! I’m on the Internet. I’m going to be writing some stuff here as and when it occurs to me – but in the meantime have you seen this hilarious video on YouTube. No, but seriously, if you want to know more about this really great thing, here’s a link. Just click on it and you’ll be taken to their website automatically. Amazing, isn’t it?”

What is all the most incredible is that The Independent – a not-insignificant media organisation – is actually using a Typepad account to host the blog. I’m not sure you can actually get any more unprofessional than that. What are they thinking? Do they have no-one in their entire organisation who knows how to install bloody WordPress on their servers?

This is what I think: the Indy has outsourced its entire website to a third-party and as a result that have absolutely no control and no idea what they’re talking about. I think they are being tied into some rip-off contract out of pure, stupid Luddite ignorance.

It would certainly explain its frankly bizarre website that uses proprietary technology to control content so they can work alongside the BT charging system – although I note with interest that it appears to have dropped the charged-for content. They used have little “P” buttons on virtually everything. Clearly that hasn’t worked out. Who would have guessed?

Anyway, have a look at the end of any Independent webpage and it ends with the very strange “.ece” file format – that’s the sure sign of some proprietary technology right there. I remember despairing about the Indy’s revamped website a year ago. They killed all previous URLs – utter madness – and although I see now I didn’t bother to go into much detail, I felt at the time it was a tragic mistake.

I think that point is rapidly becoming clear: by not having any interaction with the Net, The Independent is building up no knowledge or understanding of the Net – an absolutely fatal situation. Sooner or later they are going to have to buy in some talent – but who would take the job? Why build a Net culture in the UK’s smallest newspaper from scratch when you can leap in with one of the big boys?

Maybe this will finally herald the end of the The Independent‘s always-difficult existence.

  1. Using Typepad might be an effective short-term way of quickly getting around having a web server that won’t, for whatever reason, play nice with something like WordPress.

    The Times uses Typepad, too; they just use it to run decent blogs.

  2. That strikes me as absolutely crazy – for a media organisation to run blogs on someone else’s servers with someone else’s name in the URL.

    If people’s servers can’t handle WordPress – what the hell hosting deal do they have? My god there must be a massive shortage of tech-savvy people in the upper management.

    Either that or – as I know is actually happening at the Times – there is a massive political fight going on between the online side and the paper side. And perfectly logical plans are being blocked.

    But The Times can shift fast – the Independent looks as though it has handed over its entire Internet side of the business. Surely they must be able to see how stupid that is?


  3. I don’t have a problem with the Indy using Typepad. It’s a good service, reliable and fairly priced. However, what I suspect happened in this case is that either a) the paper got some highly paid consultant in and said ‘we want a blog, help us’ and the consultant signed up for a Typepad account, raked in several thousands and fucked off or b) the Indy dumped the whole ‘blog thing’ on someone inhouse and clueless who figured signing up for Typepad and leaving it at that would get the job done nice n easy.

    The thing is, if you have a Typepad Pro account (or Plus account I think) you can map your url to your website/domain whatever, so that should sort out one problem you mention Kieren. Beyond the facile content, I must say it is VERY lame that a UK newspaper is runing a blog with a ‘Powered by Typepad’ link in the left hand column.

    Whatever happened has been done by the clueless, the cheap or a combination thereof. Martin quite rightly states the Times use Typepad. I believe Forbes use it too. I also have a feeling that Typepad was/is involved in TIME Magazine’s blogs, but I could be wrong on that. But all these collaborations are way and above what the Indy have done. Or, really, hav enot done.

  4. Dammit, I knew I should have gone on about TypePad/Moveable Type and the different things you can do with them but I knew I would suck myself into an hour-long blog post.

    You’re right of course Graham, but I still say that it is highly unprofessional to have “typepad” in a media company’s blog URL. In fact, I am still having trouble grasping it – it is a five-minute job to fix.

    But I also think running your content on other people’s servers is also bloody stupid and unnecessary. What if TypePad goes down? (Something that is highly possible – if Google’s blogging system can go down…)

    Considering media companies are so obsessive about their copyright, it seems crazy to me that they then go and stick everything on a third-party server when for a few hundred quid you can have a fully robust system you can control.

    It just demonstrates the complete lack of understanding – or interest – that the top execs appear to have.

    I’m half tempted to offer my consulting services. It would take me less than a day to sort it out – and I am not exactly a sysadmin.

    I would argue that this is more than just an issue of content (although of course that is ultimately the most important thing) – it is a case of what little grasp very highly paid media executives have of the Internet.

    I am longing to read a piece in which a media specialist explains why the Internet isn’t absolutely key to their future, but I don’t think anyone can write it – the evidence is too over-powering. As such what we see are heads-in-sand and half-hearted, limp-wristed efforts to get online.

    Oh well…


  5. I tend to agree with you although there is an argument to be had that spreading your brand over a few hosts is a smart, although I think that’s a difficult argument to win…

    The Typepad servers do – like most servers – go down now and then. They have a blog which gives you a status report when things go tits up. Not that often, but it does happen.

    A more important point which shows an utter lack of awareness is censorship. Tyepad/Blogger and other hosted blog sites are inaccessible to some parts of the world. This is not always a permanent state of affairs but, for example, in Vietnam I regularly could not see my own blog or friends blogs in Vietnam who were also on Typepad or Blogger. The Independent won’t be immune to that. China, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. all clamp down now and then.

    As for whether or not Forbes etc. pay for a premium service where sixapart come in, build it all, charge a maintenance fee, but do not physically host the content, I don’t know. I suspect their blogs are NOT hosted in the same way the Indy one obviously is.

    Whatever, the Indy’s is by a long stretch the worst of any newspaper blogs I’ve seen and, as you say, shows an astonishing lack of understanding about where media is heading.

  6. The Telegraph also, a few years ago, did the URL reshuffle thing; we had to redo my entire credits page as a result – and some of the pieces we’ve still never been able to restore. (www.pelicancrossing.net/credits.htm shows the effects)


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