As so many people who blog here have observed, newspapers face a quandary as they struggle to attract and keep readers to their print editions as well as their Web sites. They want to win customers at the same time they are giving those customers less for their money.
One way to get around that is to give people the same or less and make it look like more. Is that the idea behind the New York Times redesign revealed this week?
For those of you who haven’t seen it, the Times seems to have exported a Web idea — summaries of lots of stories divided by section — to its print edition. Pages 2 and 3 of the paper are now, aside from ads, entirely devoted to “Inside the Times” describing key articles in the rest of the paper. Page 4 offers the Times’ self important (and sometimes inadvertently hilarious) correction section along with a guide to some features available only on the paper’s Website.
The concept seems a little puzzling. Sure these summaries work on the Web site when you can just click on the story you want to read. In print, you have to shuffle pages and sometimes even go to different sections to get the stories you read. And while summaries on newspaper Web sites tend to be short — I’ve heard 25 words cited as an upper limit — many of these hover around 50.
It seems like a waste of valuable (and expensive, given paper and printing costs) real estate. I, for one, would rather see stories on those pages, although articles, of course, have to be written an edited by people who tend to like being paid. And it seems irritating to have to go through some many pages before getting to anything “real.” In fact, because of ads, the first inside story in Thursday’s Times did not appear until Page 6. And as an added fillip, that story jumped (to page 15).
But maybe I’m missing something. Is something else going on here? Will we be seeing more such “Web-like” features in print media? And is this likely to accomplish its goal which, one must assume, is to keep people buying their copies of the Times or, if that’s a losing battle, to bring more people to the Web site, where they can click on those stories rather than wonder where the heck they put the Sports section.