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TownNews

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by HejiraHenry, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    Our folks are looking at TownNews as a possible solution as we move our pagination/web integration into the 21st century.

    Right now, we're still running Quark 6-point-something and using Word Press for the website, with some poor bastard doing cut-and-paste at 5 a.m. every morning. We're easily a couple of generations behind, as you can tell, and our gear is starting to break down. The idea of transitioning to InDesign has been on the drawing board for a couple of years.

    We're a 30k daily with a desk that also handles design on a handful of weeklies.

    I have talked to some former colleagues who're using TownNews and InDesign. They're generally happy with it, with the caveat that it does create "more steps" to get things done. "More steps," I got that a lot.

    I know a previous thread about TownNews devolved into "TownNews sucks," and if that's how you feel I'd like to hear more about why it sucks. And if you like it, ditto. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. TexasVet

    TexasVet Member

    My opinion on TownNews may differ than some, but I dealt with them closely over a 9-year period. I think they took on too many papers and got too big too fast. It became a cash cow and customer service went out the window. Getting customer support or help desk was always a hassle, whether it was an IT person or the sales rep there.

    Almost all of their sites look the same, but you can change up the look a little bit with their BLOX system. I never liked it. Like you said, LOTS of extra, unnecessary steps. And once you upload a story, photo, video, etc, it doesn't come up automatically. Sometimes we'd wait 10-15 minutes for the story to publish. And that's hitting the refresh button every 20 seconds.

    I constantly got frustrated with TownNews and the company I worked for said they would seek out a new service. TownNews never progressively changed with the times. A lot of that has to do with older management there, which is the same problem we have with newspapers. There are most likely better services out there. It may be cheaper, then again maybe more expensive. I'd keep my eyes peeled for other avenues.
     
  3. JRoyal

    JRoyal Well-Known Member

    We went to TownNews about a year and a half ago, and it has changed drastically in those two years for the better. I think TexasVet is right in some ways, esp. in regards to their pagination product. It still has lots of issues, but they have been very receptive to our input and have worked to integrate things that we've asked for. Now, we have the advantage that they want to keep us happy as a chain (BH Media Group) and they see us as a group they can work with to improve the product and make it marketable to other papers. A lot of our gripes with pagination were things that they started hearing about when the Post-Dispatch started with them.

    As for the web side, it is somewhat limiting. Like TV said, there can be headaches with how things load because when something gets a site tag, you might see it up in a couple of minutes, or it could be 15. You're stuck waiting and there's nothing to speed it up, really (well, not too much anyhow).

    As for "more steps." in some cases that's true, but it depends on the system you're coming from. We went from DTI to TownNews, and there are things I wish I had back (DTI was far better with agate by far, for example). There are things you have to worry about that we didn't have to before. But there's a lot that can be done with their rulesets, and they can set a lot of that up for you if you ask them.

    A couple of tips:

    -- If you're going to use both their web and pagination products, get them to talk to you early and begin the process together so that you are thinking early on about things like how to tag things and if you need tags to style things for print styling or if the web tags will work and how the workflows need to work. We rushed our website and then a few months later we did the print side, and there were things that could've went smoother for us in the print setup if we could have known how the TCMS side was going to work.

    -- Find the smartest, most computer-savvy and InDesign savvy person in your newsroom and make them your template master. And make sure that person isn't afraid to say they don't know what the hell they're doing and that they aren't afraid to ask if TCMS can make something happen. There are a lot of things that can be simplified and TCMS can show you how, but most people just struggle through and don't ask. Yes, there are some things that will take more steps, esp. for reporters (who should be expected to add section tags to their stories and maybe even art, God forbid), but most of those steps don't take very long.

    If you do go that route and you have any questions, I'm the template master at the Tulsa World. Shoot me a message and I'll send you my contact info and I'll answer any questions and offer help with anything I can.
     
  4. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    I'll say this, "template master" would look great on a business card.
     
  5. studthug12

    studthug12 Active Member

    What's the webbing system Saxotech?
     
  6. Mr. Sunshine

    Mr. Sunshine Well-Known Member

    From a page design perspective, the TN/ID combo is no better or worse than any of the operating systems and related programs I've worked on. Part of the BH chain mentioned in an earlier post, we've been using it for about a year and a half. It's not the most user-friendly system for making design changes/additions after the fact. But like any system, you learn the shortcuts, things to avoid, etc. I don't deal enough with the web side to comment constructively, and as for the customer service, it has been a mixed bag. The guys in the newsroom here had a lot of trouble early on getting TN to adjust to the workflow problems that crept up, but the overall working relationship has gotten better. I will say that ID is infinitely better than Quark. If you make that switch, you'll be happy.
     
  7. notquiteout

    notquiteout New Member

    Been using Town News, Blox CMS and Blox TCMS for several years, in conjunction first with InDesign and now InCopy. Have used (sometimes at the super-user or sysadmin level) many other systems in the past, from VT220 to Harris to CCI to homebrew based on Quark and InDesign.
    Blox is OK for 2016, but certainly won't get my ringing endorsement. My best description: It seems designed by people who are most interested in making it easy for THEM (the designers) to get it out the door -- with little thought given to the load it straps onto the backs of the end users and/or the nightly workflow. Many, many little things that seem obvious and would be big time-savers are not there.
    Integration between TCMS and InCopy is poor. Frankly, XyWrite for DOS was a far superior text editing system. Town News' high school sports box score input system was absolute horse shit, a mean prank played on sports editors. Nobody used it. Rather than fix it, they killed it.
    That said, Blox takes some of the tedium out of the basic task of putting things online. Once you learn its arbitrary quirks and jump through the many repetitive nightly hoops, you can build a decent website with it. Where it most falls flat is integration with the print product. Lots of busywork all shift long.
    These days, I challenge you to find a better system that management can afford. Not many out there. Good luck with your choice.
     
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