March 3, 2016 Last Updated 7:21 am

Much of the media missed Trump phenomenon, now are they over compensating?; The AAP reports further eBook sales declines

Morning Brief: New website redesign for the Chicago Sun-Times is a strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: an attractive, readable mobile website matched with a crowded, ad-filled mess of a desktop version

The press in the US press seems to be in agreement: the nomination races are over and all that is left during the spring and summer is the coronation of the two party’s candidates. Meanwhile, 35 more states are set to vote, and all but one of the “losing” candidates plan to stay in the race and fight it out for at least a couple more weeks (March 15 is another big day with six states set to vote including Ohio and Illinois).

Washington Post New York Times newspapersIt has been a bit painful for me to read the NYT and WaPo these days as they seemed to have settled in on a message about the race, then struggle to explain why that message doesn’t match the actual numbers. If the Republican race is already decided in Donald Trump’s favor why are the Republican big wigs about to unleash a flurry of attack ads and speeches trying to halt Trump’s coronation?** Why is it that Bernie Sanders won four states when the race has already been decided for Hillary Clinton?

There is no doubt that both Trump and Clinton and leading their races and may well be on their way to winning the nominations of their party, but the primary season is hardly over.

What is happening here is that after years of journalists and readers complaining coverage of the elections always seems to boil down to process and poll stories, that the new way to cover elections is to simply decide who has won and stick with that message. Analysis is less about the numbers and more about proving you can call the race before anyone else.

Another meme that I am not buying into is that the Republican establishment is aghast that Donald Trump will be the party’s nominee. The evidence, aside from some party pundits, doesn’t see to be able to support that. Yesterday Rupert Murdoch, who owns a near monopoly on right wing media, all but came out with an endorsement on Trump, saying the party leadership would wrong not to rally around the Donald.

Right wing radio, too, is rallying around the message that Trump, though he may not be a voter’s first choice, would worth supporting over Clinton.

I would love for the Times and Post to go a full week without writing about the election, sit back and think about things. They might come away from the experience refreshed and ready to start reporting on the actual election rather than they one that seems to have already ended in their minds.

** Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 race to President Obama, is to give a speech today, an excerpt of which has already been released: “Donald Trump is a phone, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat”

The latest Association of American Publishers (AAP) shows eBook sales continuing to fall, with sales for the first ten months of 2015 down 12.3 percent versus the same time period the year before. Overall revenue was $13.2 billion, down 2.8 percent.

AAP-logo-smThe usual caveats have to be repeated, of course: the AAP numbers only represent their members, and while this includes the largest book publishers in the US, it does not reflect what is going on in what might be called the new book industry of Amazon, other platforms and self-publishers.

Looking at the AAP numbers, however, what one sees is that increasing the prices of eBooks may have dampened sales, but it has not led to higher sales revenue overall. This is a real problem in that printed books are far more expensive to print and deliver than eBooks, and while some publishers may feel more comfortable with the traditional publishing model, feeling more in control, that comfort comes at a price.

The growth in the AAP report remains concentrated in audiobooks and paperbacks. Downloaded audio increased 38.1 percent in the first ten months of 2015, while paperback book sales revenue was up 12.4 percent year-to-date compared to 2014.

SunTimes-400The Chicago Sun-Times yesterday launched a new website design which, when seen on a desktop, might be mistaken for a pre-printed insert seen in your Sunday paper – all advertising, with a little content thrown in.

I was surprised when a few local journalists praised the new website design as a major improvement over the old look.

But their impressions of the site may have been the result of seeing the site first on a mobile device.

On a desktop, not only was the home page almost completely taken over with advertising, but when one clicked on a story one is again presented with obnoxious advertising that prevents the reader from engaging with the content. I’m proudly a revenue guy, probably one of the few left in the publishing business, apparently, so I love seeing sold advertising on a newspaper website (and pages and pages of it in print), but no design – digital or print – should prevent the reader from engaging with the publishing product.

SunTimes newspaper iPhoneThis invites the use of ad blockers – and, in fact, only when visiting the site using my Chrome browser with ad blocker extension did the site work for me, though its design then felt almost empty.

But… when viewed on a mobile device, the new site is, indeed, a major improvement.

There is actually zero advertising apparently on the home page of the mobile version, and less intrusive advertising on the stories on the mobile version. It is almost the exact opposite of the desktop version.

I have to scratch my head over this one: why is one version so different from the other?

This is often true with newspaper web design, but in the world of magazines, where many titles are going with a mobile-first approach, the look and navigation of the desktop version is simplified to be more consistent with the mobile version. If the Sun-Times did this, throw out the new desktop version and replace it with a more simplified version consistent with its mobile website, it might prove more readable for me.

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