October 20, 2008

Website review: Time Off Magazine

Posted in Web tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:55 pm by Andrew McMillen

Imagine that you run a free weekly music publication. A pretty popular one named Time Off, that’s read widely across Brisbane, a city home to 1.8 million. You recently got bought out by – sorry, merged with – Street Press Australia, who own several similar publications across the country. You decide to upgrade the magazine’s website, which has become outdated.

You’ve got two options: fast, easy and crappy, or slow, meticulous and attractive.

Which option do you think Time Off chose?

Time Off Magazine website screenshot, 20 October 2008

Time Off Magazine website screenshot, 20 October 2008. Click for full size.

I think it’s pretty obvious. 

It’s an out-of-the-box, CMS-based site with minimal focus on design. Okay, fair enough; not every site needs to be eye-catching, so long as it gets the job done, right?

Unfortuntately, the redeveloped Time Off site fails to get the job done. Content is cumbersome and slapped onto the site directly from the latest printed issue with little rhyme or reason. 

Mysterious capital letters abound throughout the site’s content. Album reviews are awarded SEO-unfriendly URLs, and they’re grouped per-issue on the same page. Nice one.

Two live reviews from last week’s issue – #1395, 15 October 2008 – are attached to the same article named ‘Feedback’, which is the name of the live review section in the print magazine. The fact that they opted to devote that issue’s entire Feedback section to 2000 words about the Time Off-sponsored Sounds Of Spring festival is another discussion. What’s more, that review was part one; part two will be printed in #1396. Can’t wait.

Clicking the top-level Time Off item on the site’s menu results in the following page, cleverly named ‘Rock’:

 Rock

Wow, useful! When were these articles published? Let’s click one to find out. Gig guide, sure. Oh, another page, that lists those three associated articles. Two named ‘gig guide’ and one named ‘venue guide’, all authored by ‘Webmaster’. I’m really glad that it shows me how many ‘hits’ each article has! Unsurprisingly, the gig guides are pasted in a plaintext format that’s needlessly difficult to process.

Okay, so their content sucks, and it’s evident that no one within Time Off gives half a crap enough to check for consistency, or anything resembling quality control. That’s fine, I didn’t really want to use the website much anyway.

But after clicking around a bit, I uncovered some truly awful content that I must paste for posterity, as they’ll surely change it once someone decides to actually.. I don’t know.. look at their fucking website.

This is under the readership section. Subtitle: Who are our readers?

Time Off readers are divided equally between male and female.

Time Off readers are predominantly aged between 17– 30 but the nature of the industry and the refusal of bands such as Rose Tattoo to call it a day suggest readers will more often than not continue to pick up SPA publications well into their 40’s.

Time Off readers are avid consumers of music, entertainment and technological devices and products. They own iPods, Blackberrys, video game consoles, Macs, Laptops, Wiis, records, record players, Mobile Phones, DVDs and MP3s. Their need to have the latest model/product available coupled with the urge to spend rather than save sees readers replacing said items as frequently as once every 6 months.

Time Off readers have access to the internet both at work and at home, on which most time is spent accessing websites of bands and performers, shopping online, watching video clips on You Tube and blogging about how the band they saw play last night changed their life…. or destroyed it.

Time Off readers go to shows, get their hair cut, buy new jeans, are addicted to coffee, see films, occasionally turn up to Uni and party hard. And wherever they are doing these things, SPA publications are within reach.

Time Off readers are a product of a consumer driven age where brand awareness has taken place of literacy and social etiquette. They were born in the ‘80s when greed was good and they know what they want and when they want it, which is sooner rather than later. This puts them and their peers ahead of their game.

Time Off readers have one best friend that never lies – the mirror. They preen, puff, spray, squeeze, flash and luck all in the name of fashion. They buy what they don’t need and are willing to try anything once if it’s considered hip, regardless of cost.

Time Off readers are educated and informed. They value substance over transparency and integrity over wit. The wool is not often pulled over their eyes.

Nevermind that it’s the most awkwardly-worded piece of copy you’ve read this month, possibly this year. Nevermind that nobody at Time Off cared enough to edit out all the instances of ‘SPA publications‘.

No – most of all, I’m genuinely disgusted that Time Off, or moveover, Street Press Australia felt it necessary to attempt to classify their readership using some broad, sweeping statements that are neither funny nor accurate. I’m not sure which outcome is more disturbing – the fact that someone was commissioned to do a half-arsed hack-and-paste job to create content just for the sake of it, or that the above paragraphs made their way onto the site apparently without quality control.

What a fucking shambles.

Hey, Time Off. This is 2008. People use the internet all the time; they check your website, and if it sucks, you’re going to get called out about it. Invest the time and money into planning a genuine strategy for the website to complement the printed magazine, or don’t do it at all.

The old site sucked too, but at least it didn’t describe me as someone who “preens, puffs, sprays, squeezes, flashes and lucks”. 

The bullshit readership copy quoted above was at least partially correct, though: I’m educated and informed. I value substance over transparency and integrity over wit. The wool is not often pulled over my eyes.

So who the fuck are you trying to kid, Time Off?

Disclosure: I write for fellow Brisbane street press Rave Magazine – who have a functional, attractive and well-utilised website – and I work for a Brisbane-based web development company. The sentiments expressed above are my own, and should not be attributed to any entity other than myself.

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12 Comments

  1. Matt said,

    andrew,
    agreed on the timeoff website – living where it is impossible to access the streetzine’s requires me to use their websites to get my fix…
    it is ugly, hard to navigate and after reading the bollocks with the “merge” and how they have made some ?major? errors e.g. publishing another city’s gig guide it has put me off even looking at their site…

  2. Matt said,

    and a closer look shows they even reference Time Off being distributed to 80,000 readers – IN PERTH – in their media kit…

    If I was them I’d sack their web media person for that error…

  3. Nick Drewe said,

    How exactly does one “flash and luck in the name of fashion”.

  4. Denis said,

    The new Time Off website looks CHEAP and TACKY! Talk about design and presentation skills…

  5. Aaron said,

    The Time Off website is, simple put, just lazy. Why are albums rated with ‘H’s’ http://www.timeoff.com.au/html/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=32:album-reviews&catid=12:cd-reviews&Itemid=42 have ‘H’s instead of a star rating, it is because

  6. Stuart said,

    Time Off sucks the big one!

  7. Meg said,

    Aha, I have to watch my commentary re. Time Off as I have already raised the ire of the Editor and Assistant Editor with my general thoughts on Australian media culture, and by using the word “syndicated” where you used “bought out”.

    There goes my future with Time Off, I guess. 😀

    I agree with you on all points. I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing considering they apparently have so much more money to throw around.

    Barely-functional eyesore.

    If you say that to anyone who contributes to Time Off though, you’ll likely be met with righteous sanctimony. Enjoy that.

  8. Ed said,

    TO + TOMB are blocked at work so I can’t get the full experience at the moment. But even in thumbnail form I’m wondering who was responsible for that colour scheme! And that Readership Section? Are they the new Sound Alliance?

    It was interesting that last week’s ARIA cover was exactly the same as used for Drum Media (and presumably for the rest of SPA’s publications). (And taken by one of SPA’s Melbourne photographers, but of course that’s not taking away opportunities for Brisbane contributors…) The only thing that surprised me, especially considering that it didn’t have any authors listed, was that the ARIA lead story, whilst in the exactly the same format did actually have different words.

    Also, around the time of the ‘Scene’ letter I was in Byron for a few days and also went up to Cairns. In Byron the new issue of TO hadn’t arrived by the time I left twon on Friday afternoon (there was a pile of the last 2 weeks’ editions there though). And despite having a few days in Cairns after flying in and also before flying out, at no time did I see any copies of TO anywhere. Guess it was just a one-off push for the benefit of the CAB audit.

    Disclaimer: Rave is officially Brisbane’s best street press publication.

  9. Matthew said,

    I love the mag and live on the south side of brissie where it used to be real hard to find. I see them around everywhere now and the content has improved.
    Agreed that the Website needs work but i’m not impressed with Raves or Scenes websites either.

    Personally i think Timeoff has been asleep for ages untill SPA took it over. The mag is everywhere now and is out on the streets before Breaky, the content is improving and this just means Scene and Rave have to improve aswell…I say competition is good and as a reader who reads all three mags myself and the local music scene is only going to benefit.

  10. Ash said,

    Agreed – Time Off’s website design and functionality is shit. However their mag is excellent!! Not just the quality of the writing but the design also.

    Compare this to Scene, who have a nice sexy looking website, that works really well, but their mag is very poorly written, and lacks ANY design appeal.

    Congratulations to RAVE for having the best website of all the ‘street press’ publications… unfortunatley, you are all in the business of publishing print media, and when you compare the magazines, Time Off is by far the most appealing.

  11. horus said,

    Look, if I can find out when the next gig is and read an occasional review- who cares what it looks like?

    cheers

    Horus

  12. […] essential as is the advertising for upcoming tours etc.  Time Off’s gig guide has gone off a little since the recent change and I hope they can bring it back up to speed.  The web is much less […]


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