I’m somewhat oddly ambivalent about this news. Here’s how I look at it:
Allbritton deserves credit for going out on a limb with TBD in the first place. I can’t name too many big media companies that would be willing to make such a drastic investment in new media, even for a six-month trial. Allbritton knew in advance that it was basically guaranteed to lose money, and it went ahead with TBD anyway.
What sucks is that they basically lied to their employees:
“They’re saying it’s financial. That, basically, they don’t see the lines crossing any time soon,” says a staffer. The logic, though, baffles those who came in with the understanding that Allbritton would be patient with its novel new property. “We all came here under the expectation of that widely-quoted ‘three-to-five year’ ramp.”
Yet somehow I’m not surprised, having seen things like this happen before.
Allbritton bailed out extremely early and their proposed changes suck (I agree with Yelvington). Why not just downsize TBD and let it keep going?
Still, it was a worthy experiment.
I don’t agree with Jay Rosen’s assessment that Allbritton somehow ensured that “nothing like (TBD) rises again.”
I doubt a company like Allbritton will build up another online, conversation-focused news site just like TBD, but parts of the experiment can be picked up, dusted off and shaped into components that can snap onto already-existing sites.
The work the TBD staffers did in their short time was valuable, beyond the obvious value of reporting on D.C.-area news. Breakthroughs come from trying and failing, and doing autopsies on the things that just failed.