July 5, 2009

Sun-Sentinel: Topix Removal Turns Toxic

The Sun-Sentinel seems to have severely underestimated their readers. Browsing their Feedback page, you find the same complaints again and again, despite the moderator's best attempts at hiding the facts.
  • They hate the basic format
  • They hate the way the website is "organized."
  • But most of all, they hate the fact that Topix was removed.
Topix provided the anemic Sun-Sentinel with a much-needed illusion of vitality. Readers could comment on whatever paltry stories they found of interest in the rapidly dissipating paper, and interact effectively with each other, debating issues they found important.

It went far beyond simply allowing a user to append a few words about a story: they could respond directly to each other, they could quote portions of each other's comments to help make the discussion more coherent, and they were given ample space to write their thoughts. It gave readers the impression that the Sun-Sentinel was fostering discussion of important events of the day.

It's an impression that increasingly appears to have been false.

Angry readers keep demanding to know what happened to their Topix accounts, and all the discussions that they were participating in when Sun-Sentinel pooped out the "improved" website.

When Topix tried to inform Sun-Sentinel users that their Topix accounts were still active, staffers were quick to claim it was "spam" and removed.

The Sentinel staff claims they have discontinued Topix to replace it with something better. But the fact is, they didn't replace it with something better. They didn't replace it with something that's as good. In fact, they barely left the ability to leave comments at all. Many articles don't permit comments at all, and the few articles that do have a tool so inadequate that it can't even keep up with typing, and cuts the user off after a few sentences, it's obvious that there has been only regression. Matt Sokoloff and his team keep talking about it, but the feature doesn't appear to exist beyond staff's claims that does.

The Sun-Sentinel has refused to respond to the entirely reasonable question "why did they removed a popular feature without having a suitable replacement available to it?" It seems blisteringly obvious that if the new system isn't available, the old one should be left in place until it is. But grasping the obvious doesn't appear to be a condition of employment at the Sun-Sentinel's IT department.

It seems that while the website team for the Sun-Sentinel have bamboozled management, soon-to-be-former Sentinel readers are not so gullible.

They know when they're being fed a line of BS.


  1. Great Post. I agree completely. I now read the Herald. Even with the "hate speak" that occasionally polluted the intelligent discussions in Topix, the vast majority of the comments were well written and well reasoned. I am no longer interested in reading the Sun Sentinel. The writing was not all that good to begin with -- Topix was actually the best part. So Long Sun Sentinel --Hello Miami Herald -to bad too because i enjoyed the give and take discussion with Mayo

  2. I, too have recently switched to the MiamiHerald.com website. But as of tonight (7/21/09), they are forcing me to register just to enter their website. The New York Times tried that about 7 or 8 years ago and it didn't work for them. I have already boycotted SunSentinel and now I have to boycott the Miami Herald. I guess I have to go to the PalmBeachPost.com website to get my daily dose of news.