Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In My View: Is ANN worth paying for?

So recently I came across the suscription link for Anime News Network. Evidently, they've started to sell advertising-light access to their Web site. At least according to this, you can turn off some banner ads and turn of those really dumb Kotera links all for the low price of US$3 a month or US$14 for six months or US$20 for a year.

Which of course raises the question, is ANN worth paying for? Like I've said before, I have a love/hate relationship with ANN. Not because they're really horrible, but because they're one of the best out there and they're still mediocre.

And who am I to call them mediocre? I'm a reporter, or at least I wrote more than 300 articles for my college newspaper. I had the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle as a teacher. One of my mentors worked for the Asian Wall Street Journal. I've won at least one SPJ award. I've covered budget hearings, tuition raises, local businesses and am honestly a damn good reporter. Whether I'm a good writer may be another story, but I can spot a hole in a story fifteen feet away.

Case in point - The Eric Sherman interview. It's one of the best pieces of journalism that I've seen come out of ANN. And it still has at least three problems with it. First is a general style issue. The Q&A format works great for fluff pieces about people that we really don't care about, or rather we don't need any real background for, like VAs, Directors or any other celebrity. But for an heavy piece of journalism it's actually inviting the person to say whatever, without any moderation or fact checking. Like say, Sherman's now infamous quote about Haruhi (if one-third of the people who downloaded the fansub had bought the DVD, it would have done much better.)

So how many units did Haruhi sell? Um... yeah, even with access to Vidscan we didn't get those numbers. Nor did we get a comparison with a great seller like Fullmetal Alchemist. Instead, we get Sherman's baseless word that it didn't do well. Do I believe Sherman? Sure. Do I believe that Zac Bertschy knows enough about the industry to not let that slide? Sure. Should I have to trust that these two people wouldn't lead me down the merry path? Good lord, no.

Hole number two would have been so simple to fix it would take maybe a half hour of research for ANYONE to do. The same point that I lauded Bertschy on, is the point he fails to provide facts yet again. The point about Anime TVs reviews being focused on Bang Zoom! dubs. He NEVER tells us which shows they were. He simply leaves it to the reader to do the research to make sure he's right.

I hate to say it, but these are rookie mistakes. They're mistakes I saw freshman J-students make. They aren't mistakes I expect out of a professional news organization.

But that said, I cut ANN some slack. Why? Because they're the equivalent of a trade magazine, the AARP magazine of anime, if you will. I want them to do better, but I don't expect them to.

So that said, is having an ad-light version of ANN worth it? Well there's the access to the "Community" forums, which I imagine is pretty much like the regular forums, only with less people. That might be good. But is it worth $3 a month. I don't really think so.

About the only think I can see being worth the money is getting rid of the Kotera links. They aren't really annoying, but they're just so random, like it highlighted "cruise to the Bahamas" in the story about the NYAF cruise con. Why would I care about a Bahamas cruise when I'm reading ANN? It's just bizarre.

But that said, I'm prepared to put my money where my mouth is. Starting this Friday, I will sign up for either a month or six month membership and tell you all about it. Maybe I'll be surprised and think that it's worth it. But I doubt I will.


tjhan said...

I am intrigued to note that my favourite anime include Last Exile, Planetes, GITS SAC and Gintama, 3 of which you have also listed as your favourits.

Anyway, I'm not sure if the Americans like ANN a lot, but most people I know just use ANN as an encylopedia regarding cast and crew names, never touching the editorials section.

Now I would be far more interested if you provided some criticism and analysis of anime bloggers lol.

Cameron Probert said...

Well, I could do that too if you'd like :) Generally, I don't hold blogs up to the same standards, but I can certainly do that if you'd like.

Iknight said...

I wouldn't pay for ANN, though I do read their editorials. In terms of news, I find that ANN's best for bringing press releases together in one place; the encyclopedia and the forums aren't bad though.

I don't know about the newspaper market where you are, but here in London we have free papers which are decent enough to cause serious problems for paysheets. So I wouldn't pay for a website news service, even if it was ad-free.

Cameron Probert said...

iknight -

Here in the US, the free papers tend to be either community papers or really slanted (read:liberal or conservative) papers. I kind of wish someone would put out a good, fair free paper around here.

omo said...

Here in NYC there's at least one free newspaper: AM New York. And it's pretty good. But competition is pretty darn tight for newspaper here. I can't imagine it be any worse in any other part of the country simply because the amount of time people spent in gridlock public transit induces so many non-newspaper readers to read them.

You take a pretty professional angle to critique ANN. I just dislike pay model of information but if the service they offer you is reduced annoyance through ad removal, it's not really fair to base it on simply the quality of journalism as you could get their articles and news freely anyways.

And it doesn't take a pro reporter to see that their news reporting is sort of shoddy. Even if we call it a "trade journal"-type publication it's a little too dumbed down.

But as said by others, it's all about the encyclopedia. Besides a couple other things, I wouldn't skip a beat if the rest of ANN just vanished.

jpmeyer said...

I do have to say that I laughed when I saw a Kotera link on "cruise in the Bahamas" on a scam about well, a cruise in the Bahamas.

Cameron Probert said...

Omo -

That is a really good point about the fact that it's not really fair to base my critique on whether they have good articles. In fact, I just kind of went on my normal ANN rant right there.

And I definitely agree with what everyone said about the encyclopedia. It is the best service they provide. Although I do like Bamboo's shelf life column. And I find myself reading Answerman on a pretty consistent basis. Mostly because I find it amusing.

jpmeyer -

Yeah, I thought it was funny too. :)