Disclaimer: I wrote for AnnArbor.com for about a year and a half, and I miss the daily morning deadlines that used to define my day. So when I heard that AnnArbor.com was shutting down its web site, moving new content to MLive, and rebranding as the Ann Arbor News, a little bit of worry was there. Would the owners scrub the site of that newspaper entirely in their quest to build something new? Were all of the URLs that I had collected for stories on Arborwiki going to suddenly go 404 on me? Was it going to be impossible for me to provide news clippings proving that I had produced a story every day for months on end? All a matter of concern.
Things are bad, but not as bad as they would seem.
All of the old content on AnnArbor.com is still there, but all of the navigation that would help you find it is gone. If you view the AnnArbor.com home page through your web browser it will redirect to MLive. Fortunately, any deeper links within the site still work, so you can see e.g. my FOIA Friday index and all of the links there still work. There’s even a search engine (using Google search) on that page.
If you search Google for “site:AnnArbor.com vielmetti” you’ll get back a page of links, but half of them won’t work – any tag, category, or section in the old site redirects to MLive. This means that if you were a blogger and were carefully tagging your stuff so that it could be found again, all of that effort is gone.
Fortunately, there’s the Internet Archive‘s “Wayback Machine” to the rescue, at least in part. That site faithfully and patiently scraped content from AnnArbor.com and stored it away forever, and it preserved enough of the links and surrounding content that it is possible to navigate up to a point. The Internet Archive’s collection even includes the current temperature for the day that the page was saved! It’s not perfect – some links will still break – but it’s much better than nothing.
I’ve never been a fan of the MLive site – it’s slow, disorienting, and hard to search through and navigate. But it’s what we now have, and I don’t hold out any promise for radical reinvention of that system. Rather, I expect that Ann Arbor newspaper readers will get an increasingly thin product, watered down with repurposed statewide news and ever more devoid of local identity. Fortunately there’s the Ann Arbor Chronicle bird-dogging civic meetings and the Ann Arbor Observer observing changes in the area, so not all is lost.
Some more local views on the topic:
Damn Arbor notes that the Ann Arbor News is back, and his lead paragraph is worthwhile repeating.
Turritopsis nutricula, the immortal jellyfish, is unique among animals in that it can revert back to its clonal polyp stage after becoming sexually mature. In a similar process, The Com announced today that it would be reverting back to its previous state as the Ann Arbor News and reintegrating the MLive Media Group as part of MLive.com. It should be be noted The Com exists as a subsidiary of MLive.
Mark Maynard writes:
I know you might be tempted to be pissed off anew over today’s announcement, but I think it bears repeating that, at least in the short term, we need for M-Live and the new twice-weekly Ann Arbor News to be successful.
And the national point of view:
Columbia Journalism Review says
Advance is now about to fold AnnArbor.com (the website) into MLive.com, the company’s Michigan portal based on its hideous website template. This is what’s on the homepage of MLive as I type. Prepare to shield your eyes.