Burying the lead

I read the story in yesterday’s Times — in print — about South Park’s creators making a sweet deal to share revenue and ownership in a larger empire. I was appalled at how long the print story took to get to the damned point. Have they forgotten the idea of a lead? Why am I reading this story? I get the writer’s great insights and prose? No. To get news.

That kind of Vaseline writing won’t work online. Look at NYTimes.com and on the business page they have to get right to the point or no one will click. Online it says:

‘South Park’ Creators Win Ad Sharing in Deal
Comedy Central and the creators of the popular show, “South Park,” have agreed to create a hub to spread the program and related material across the Internet, mobile platforms and video games.

In the paper, here’s how long it takes to get to the point:

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 26 — In March, the season premiere of “South Park” began by barging into typically risqué territory, with a squirm-inducing bit about the taboo of using a certain racial epithet.

To Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators and executive producers of “South Park,” Comedy Central’s most lucrative franchise, the clip ought to have been blazing its authorized way around the Internet, its flouting of social norms picking up ad revenue with every set of eyeballs. Instead, the clip was easy to find, but it wasn’t making any money for its rightful owners.

“If I’m overseas and have to get an episode right away,” Mr. Stone lamented, “you literally have to go to an illegal download site.”

Because of the slow entry into the digital realm of Viacom, Comedy Central’s parent, and an almost crippling deal point in Mr. Stone’s and Mr. Parker’s contract, the lewd, rude, crudely animated and mordantly funny series — one that began with a viral video before the term even existed — has barely had a presence as an avalanche of user-generated entertainment hit the Web. Meanwhile, sites like YouTube met the demand for free “South Park” clips without paying for the privilege.

Now, however, Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker and their bosses at Comedy Central, a unit of Viacom’s MTV Networks, are attempting to leapfrog to the vanguard of Hollywood’s transition into Web. In a joint venture that involves millions in up-front cash and a 50-50 split of ad revenues, the network and the two creative partners have agreed to create a hub to spread “South Park”-related material across the Net, mobile platforms, and video games.

I was ready to scream on the subway. Get to the point. Bring back the inverted pyramid. Stop burying the lead.