We have noticed that for a while now all our internet page links to the Herald made before 2011 have not been working anymore. Links like http://www.herald.co.zw/inside.aspx?sectid=20101&cat=8 which we linked to from a story on 7 December 2010. Or http://www.herald.co.zw/inside.aspx?sectid=14244&cat=8 we linked to on 14 January 2010 from this story. There are more examples. You get the page below when you click on the links:
We feared the worst. That the country’s most popular local website had taken down all the content that existed before they did a Content Management System (CMS) changeover sometime at the beginning of 2011. A CMS is the system that allows internet content creators to easily publish content to the internet without having to deal with the technical programming stuff that runs in the background.
We clicked around a bit to see what was going on and we checked with people we know at the company that implemented the Herald’s current website. Our worst fears were confirmed: the old herald from before CMS changeover is not available online anymore. That’s about 9 years’ worth of content taken offline. From what we can tell, the archive component on the new Herald website only goes as far back as 17 September 2010 and, even then, for some strange reason doesn’t archive all the content in the period.
One could argue of course that you can still access the content via allAfrica.com. But there’s a pay wall there blocking access to premium content so we can’t really call that accessible in the internet sense that we’ve come to know (and love). And even if we could freely get to the content, there’s still the 9 years’ worth of links pointing to the old herald site that are dead now. Links on the internet are treasure.
We doubt that the Herald did this intentionally. We doubt they want their voice drowned by competing voices (ideologically at least) on the internet. The Herald probably just doesn’t know it has a problem that needs fixing, so maybe just didn’t give the instruction to their web company. We’re sure Webdev would migrate the data given the instruction. Migrating data and permalinks from one CMS to another is not rocket science.
We also doubt they removed the actual information from the servers. Internally, they are probably able to access the old site. It’s fixable problem that needs to be fixed.
Our dead links aside, what’s more worrying is all the advertising revenue they are not getting from having 9 years of their content offline. It’s no wonder some media people think the internet doesn’t work as a news platform; it’s mostly because they are yet to figure out how to make it work and they just wish they could put up pay walls already. There are many ways to make the internet work. 9 years’ worth of daily content on the internet is gold. Keeping all that content online would boost the Herald’s traffic significantly and make easier the currently tough task of selling advertising.