Local hipsters are understandably concerned by any and all changes at Lawrence.com, from the serious (the demise of the print edition) to the trivial (design changes of the website).
An announcement this week likely leans toward the serious side: Lawrence.com's owner, The World Company, has laid off, for financial reasons, long-time contributor Gavon Laessig and editor Phil Cauthon. Sure, we've poked a little fun at Gavon's propensity for extraneous shirtless photos of himself, but we still suspect the website will decline now that it's being run by the fine folks from the "features" section of the LJ-World, who believe that local-culture stories consist primarily of helpful hints on eating cantaloupe.
Let's take a look at some of the concerns raised in the talkback section.
ScaryManilow (of the SpookLights) eloquently voices many of our own fears:
"I eagerly anticipate lawrence.com-- the rhonda miller years... [LC-note: This is sarcasm, folks. Rhonda Miller is the "poet" who runs rampant on the LJ-World website].Then again, this change surely reflects a more conservative attitude in Lawrence (I'm pretty sure Gavon's take on "Manscaping" was a bit too button-pushy for some of the fuddy duddies in this town)... If there was more of a market for this sort of thing, they may not have pulled the plug, but alas, Lawrence is turning into a retirement community for ex-Johnson County stockbrokers, and our cultural output has to be watered down to suit their tastes."
Matt Armstrong makes the point that the Gavon and Phil-era was already a "sinking ship" in his blistering critique which ends with a wail of pure (hipster) anguish. We'll print it here at length:
"LJWorld already threw Lawrence.com away when it canceled the print edition. It was a touchstone in the community, and they turned their back on it by not paying bloggers, firing editors, ignoring the developing models of monetized sites (instead relying exclusively on ad revenues), avoiding creativity in it's business model, and ignoring exclusive content. Instead, they decided to turn the site into a link depository (no editing needed!), leading viewers away from the site, while running duplicate stories on LJWorld.com (again, making viewers look AWAY from the site). What did they expect unique page views to do? Go up?
Phil and Gavon were only holding the shambling thing together, frantically plugging the leaks in the ship while waiting for either a financial cutback or a department shutdown to kill them. They did it out of faith to the past, to the town, and to the community; or what there was left of it. Because refreshing leadership sure as hell wasn't coming. It's clear; management strangled the content. They took the first and foremost web presence in Lawrence and made it a dust bowl. They did it by being stupid and short sighted and limiting their hired talents' skills.
[To the Editors] I mean, Christ, you threw away a (actually not a, the only) hip, viably profitable newsweekly and actually managed to damage the community. It was the town's printed schedule! Your damned paper used to literally draw friends and me out of our offices at lunch so we could peruse it on Wednesdays over lunch, thanks to the full schedule and the brilliantly attractive layout. Who else can claim that?!? The Onion? Vice? Well, follow their business models, it's easy enough to find a copy. When I moved here in 2004 I made friends over talking about what was in Lawrence.com (Can't anyone remember Willie the Warlock?!?). It was a water cooler for the entirety of downtown. And you threw it away, you absolutely threw it away."
Richard: "Yeah, whatever happened to Willie the Warlock, I wonder? And why can't someone hire Chip and me to turn Lawrence.com into something vaguely provocative but, most importantly, chock-full of boner jokes?"