Monday, May 12, 2008

Time Off bought by Street Press Australia

I found out last weekend that a few weeks ago, SPA bought Brisbane's local music street press magazine, Time Off. I've been an avid reader of Time Off for around 10 years now, relying on it as my main source of news of upcoming gigs and interviews, and to a lesser extent, recent releases.

There's been a few changes to the layout and format over the years, and even though they seemed quite drastic at the time, I found that the last incarnation was great for finding what I wanted quickly. One of the things I really liked was the bold-ing of band names and artists in the quick news sections (eg, Tour Bus, Local and Soundcheck sections), which made scanning the paragraphs a breeze. The gig guide was also very comprehensive, listing both headliners and supports for most gigs, often up to four weeks in advance. The only thing I can think of that would have made it better would have been to distinguish new listings in each edition, but on the whole, it was very usable.

Every now and then I manage to pick up a physical copy of the magazine, but I mostly access the content online. I noticed something was astray when the online version had not been updated for a couple of weeks (it's usually updated in sync with when the physical mag is out, ie, every Wednesday). I didn't pay too much attention to it, thinking that there must be some technical reasons behind it. That is, until I picked up a copy of the mag and read the article about the acquisition.

Since that issue (1370 for those playing along at home), the format of the physical magazine has changed significantly. The emphasising of the band names and artists in the news snippets is gone, making it much more slow and painful to skim read.

The gig guide is now split up over a few different pages, where only gig listings for the coming week go into detail about who the supports are. It also appears that only mid to big-name bands are listed with significant advance notice. I think both of these factors are a backward step for smaller acts trying to gain more exposure. As someone who is into a lot of the smaller acts and isn't averse to going to a gig just to see them in the support role, I think it's going to make it harder to find out about them in time to lock them into my calendar! Things like the upcoming David McCormack support and Pinky Beecroft gigs are nowhere to be seen in the latest issue.

So far, I've only experienced the changes in print, as the website still hasn't been updated. I'm hoping that it will be a bit easier to read online when it does come back! In the meantime, I'm doing a bit more leg-work of my own and scouring the venues' websites for those elusive nuggets of gigging gold.


Julien said...

Hi Kris,

If the website follows down the same route as the physical paper, I'm sure you'll come up with the right greasemonkey script to put the boldface back in :-)


Kristian Domagala said...

It's funny you mention that! As I was writing the post, I was thinking about what kind of natural language processing techniques I could use to extract band names out of the text. My first idea was to highlight any words that didn't spell-check, but that would be open to a lot of unwanted hits and misses.

Maybe I could search for terms from my LastFM profile (including recommended artists) and bold those. That way, not only would those bands that I'm interested in be highlighted, but those that I am not into will stay in the background. Hmm, could be on to something here...

Julien said...

If you only connect to your profile, you may miss new bands that are not in your profile. What about interfacing with By using both freedb and you could even color-code band names (bands I like, bands my friends like but not me, etc.).

David Brennan said...

Bummer about the changes to Time Off, especially since, to me, street press is supposed to be about helping out the small acts; the bigger acts already have cross-media promo stuff. Maybe a carefully worded email to the publishers or editors from a long term reader and gig-goer.....

As for all the bold-for-bands stuff, you could just grab all the words beginning with Uppercase, since you are pretty fastidious with your typing. Then just use a filter list to drop out 'The' and 'This', etc. Or just make a 'band' XML tag and use that when you enter each band name. Not very high-tech or code heavy, but fast-ish :)


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