The new Las Vegas Sun is really, really good.

Las Vegas Sun. Whoa.

I liked it a few days ago when I looked at the homepage and an article page or two, but I keep going back and it keeps growing on me.

Read Rob Curley’s rather informative take here, including the ridiculously constraining bits about the crazy JOA that makes the print edition of the Sun more or less an ad-free supplement inserted into the Review-Journal.

Seriously, it’s nuts.

If you’re interested in the changes-every-day centerpiece on the home page, read Khoi Vinh’s post about trying to hire someone to do a similar sort of work at NYTimes.com.

Or just apply for the job.

More wild pieces from the Las Vegas Sun:

If you run a major metro online operation and you’re not paying attention to what this talented crew of all-stars put together in Las Vegas, you’re in the wrong business.

This is a destination site, forced to differentiate from its print product by a weird JOA, building a newspaper site out of nothing that we would traditionally think of as the core content of a print newspaper.

Obviously, I’m impressed.

It’s clearly not their first rodeo.

14 thoughts on “The new Las Vegas Sun is really, really good.

  1. The key, as I see it, is they got their heads right before they even started talking technology. They turned the JOA’s limitations into strengths; they did what they could instead of whining about what they couldn’t. There’s a Bruce Lee mantra in there somewhere.

    Other little things I like:
    – comments are moderated, with a nice explainer about elevating discussion
    – registering took about 30 seconds, and I didn’t have to look for boxes to uncheck for newsletters about fashion I don’t want
    – the multimedia is just plain awesome

    It’s a sweet site all around.

  2. I like the design and have been a fan of Zach’s multimedia for a while now. But – it is a Web site and newspaper completely devoid of advertising or any apparent need to actually have a business model.

    They do not think like a newspaper because they are not a newspaper in the traditional business sense.

    You get enough talented people in a room and free them from the constraints of making a profit (NPR/PBS?) and you have a jump start on creating a great product.

    And, they have certainly created a great product – but how much of a role model is it for a newspaper operating in the real world?

    At the very least I would like to hear about some metrics on traffic and reader involvement on the site before we go and proclaim this as the next best thing.

  3. @Chris – We can discuss the perfect commenting system all day long. If you’re going to make me register, I want something in return, like a profile page with all my comments and favorite stories on it.

    @Damon – There are certainly two big elephants in the room, one being revenue and the other being an audience. I see lots of space and logic for one leaderboard + large rectangle on every page, closer to ljworld.com than an average newspaper.com.

    Maybe a five-second sponsor shout-out pre-roll on the multimedia would jive well with the quality of the content, closer to PBS than a local news affiliate.

    And then there’s the question of an audience… With no local news on the site before it hits print, they’re focusing on blogs and multimedia to draw users in.

    I’ll be interested to see if they can draw a local audience that way.

    It’s certainly a completely different product when you compare it to their “competition” at lvrj.com.

  4. I too am fascinated by the whole LVS deal. It is possibly the most beautiful online news site to date, and so appealing to use. I find myself wanting to go there every day. Yikes! I’ve never said that about any online news site, ever!!

  5. Love the site — no doubt. But my thoughts run along the same lines as Damon’s above. I also read Rob Curley’s post — incredible hires, incredible talent, magnificent development and presentation — but from where did the money come? From where will it continue to come to support this news site?

    Any insights?

  6. @Ryan and Chris

    The stock version of Ellington compiles all comments made by a user into a view for that users’ public profile.

    Unfortunately, upgrading Ellington may not be as easy as plug-and-play — many of the apps made by folks are not based on the version of Django Ellington uses. This makes them incompatible.

    Hopefully, the folks in Las Vegas have programmers that can extend what their version of Ellington can do.

    But I’d argue against making it a del.icio.us or facebook — it’s that what those apps are for?

  7. @Patrick – I’m guessing Ellington is built on an aging stable release while everyone is coding new apps from the trunk?

    Oh, and I am completely enamored with the idea of basic user profile pages for news site commenters. I think it solves about 2/3 of concerns about nastiness in open threads.

    Want to make sure anonymous comments of value still get posted? Set up a feature where anonymous comments are held for moderation, but comments from logged in users aren’t.

  8. @Ryan

    The version of Ellington Scripps uses was built on Django version 0.91 or something like that. It’s definitely pre-magic removal.

    Most folks in the Django community build apps from trunk. I do this currently.

    Oh and your idea about holding comments from anonymous users is completely doable in Ellington. :)

  9. I am a little conflicted about this site.

    It’s hard not to like a site design that seems un-tethered from the banner ad business model.

    It is clean and attractive – it borrows many design cues that you see on othere sites like NYT.com – but is scaled for human consumption (Unlike the NYT’s home pages which is likely designed with the googlebot cipher in mind afore the human reader.)

    It seems not to have a strong community engagement section – and that leads me to a few other things I noticed once you get past how clean the template code is.

    They absolutely missed a great many things in their multimedia behaviors.

    For example:

    1) Not letting their audience embed and (and thus virally distribute and amplify) their unique assets. (Crikey, even the WSJ allows embeds . . .

    2) Not displaying the vital dynamic feedback (a.k.a displaying the number of views and other meta data in real-time. this is the pixie dust that makes a site feel alive. (i.e Tell me how many other people are reading? or have read this item?, How many registered users are online?, etc)

    3) The designers assumes that that people prefer their web video windows to dominate their screen. I don’t know if this is arrogance or ignorance but there is no button I could find to shrink the vids.

    4) They do not allowing visitors to rank or rate the media or stories.

    In spite of all the success of You Tube – the developers have crippled critical behaviors that drive interactivity and a satisfying user experience. If you look closely the embed icon is there as an option – it is just switched off!)

    Look, All this to say that the new paradigm and promise of networked journalism presumes that that the user is in charge of the experience.

    Wile there is some nice eye candy and clean code, the LV Sun Web site continues down the path well-trod by ‘old think’ editors – editors who still think they are in control and presume that people experience Web video like they do broadcast video. I know – a bit harsh, but these are but a few of the fundamentals no news site can ignore when it ‘redesigns.’ Users will care more about how it works than how it looks.

    You Tube, Digg, and The Guardian have all changed the game. This redux seems to ignore audience expectations at their own peril.

    The good news is that you can now go back and code in all that stuff and then site will rock – on more than one level.

  10. Folks – Damon and Robb have it right, I’m afraid. It’s a very nice site – some really smart ideas and pretty execution. But, but, but…
    A news operation that hides news until it can print and deliver it?
    A website, built with top drawer talent lured from across the country and no advertising? and no evident business model?
    Here at The Spectator we’re re-examing our web (who isn’t?) and we’ve been contacting news operations across the continent to try and understand their staffing models. EVERY single place we’ve contacted has had layoffs within the past year.
    I love what Rob Curley (and his many talented, fiendishly hard-working pals) have done when they’ve been handed the tools and the opportunity, but a closer look reveals that in each and every case the normal laws of news economics were suspended while they did their work. Rob will admit as much if you ask him.
    Let’s admire their work – maybe even pant jealously and certainly steal freely – but don’t confuse their world with what’s broadly possible at most newspaper websites.
    The hard reality is we’re not going to save our businesses with 360 degree panorama’s, or full screen flash videos. We’ll save it by building staffs that can apply the best tools to tell the best stories and somehow, somewhere, find someone who is, as Rob Curley says, “driving with their brights on” who can figure out a business model that works.

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