Since 6:30 this morning (at least) The Bulletin's Web site has been down with a "Connection Failure" on their news content area of the front page of their site (if it suddenly starts working, let me know as I have a screen shot I'll post). Their sections appear to still work, but they have yesterday's content. I've got a note into some folks there to see if they can fix it (or at least relay on to the person who can).
Anybody who reads this site knows I've been more than critical of local media, especially when it comes to their online efforts. Bend.com used to the be the best source for Bend news online, but since Barney left, it's become a source for nothing more than slightly re-written press releases from around the state (with barely any original reporting). I used to link to that site quite a bit for local news, but haven't for a long time.
The Bulletin's Web site hasn't changed in years, and still just puts up a couple of the stories from their print edition. Every time a story in the paper is reported that I'd love to have people read and discuss, it never makes it into the online edition.
One of the critical stats that none of the local media outlets are watching is their link per thousand circulation. Why is this important? Because bloggers can (and will) send a pile of relevant traffic to your site from people who wouldn't regularly read it, but might after seeing a good presentation once. A good discussion and study on this can be read here and here. It's obviously not an exact science, but it's a good gauge as to how popular you are online.
If I were to link to a story on The Bulletin's site, it'd not only get local traffic from people that don't read the local print edition, but it would get traffic from all over the state from folks who read this site looking for Bend news. As much as some folks locally hate to admit it, The Bulletin does cover more news than most folks around here and generally, more in-depth because they have more room for it. It doesn't necessarily mean they're covering it properly, but I think they're making as good of an attempt as they can, given their daily deadline crunch. I just wish more than anything that some of that would appear online in a useable form so that folks from around the state could go SOMEWHERE for news about Bend. These are folks who are not in the Bulletin's print circulation area, so they can't be reading the daily print edition. They rely on a Web site that currently isn't functional.
But I guess it's really kind of hard to put much effort into a useful Web site when your print circulation is actually increasing (which was pointed out by John Costa in his column today, which I sadly can't link to). He asks "What's our secret?" And he lists some very good points on things The Bulletin has certainly improved on over the years to make the newspaper better (and I tend to agree with him -- the paper has gotten better). The print edition has gotten better, but it's been at the expense of the online edition, which has remained stagnant over the last few years. So I think one secret he forgot in there was that they're forcing people to read the print edition because their Web site is so useless. Even employees of the organization I've talked to can't stand it.
Update on 5/9: Looks like the problem was fixed. It was down most of the day, but appears to be working again.