There’s a lot of talk out there about the fate of newspapers, how we get our news, and things like that. I go to Drudge for my first pass at news, then to the NY Times. Why read the Times? Not because I like it or agree with it, I don’t. Their coverage is awful and their inherent anti-Jesus bias shines through all the time. The reason I read their stuff is simply because I find their site the easiest to use and the most like what I want an online paper to look like.
Every other news site that I look at suffers from horrible design and an ugly interface. I occasionally look at the Washington Post, but it’s an awful site. Bad colors, links all over the place in an illogical order, and bad flash content. The Washington Times is worse, with too much static content, bad pictures and overwhelming adds. The Wall Street Journal is dark, heavy and hard to navigate. Some of the London papers are ok and the Financial Times is ok if you can get past the color scheme.
But the NY Times has a simple, clean design. The stories are grouped logically by section and the whole homepage looks like a paper, with the pictures in the middle acting as the fold of a printed newspaper. I know where everything is and it stays there. The pictures and photo essays are superb and I love looking at them. I hate their politics and their point of view, but it’s usable. That’s the only reason I read it.
If these papers want to flourish online, they need to invest some serious time and money in design. If they get clean designs and usable sites, they will have a chance to flourish online. I don’t know about the printed versions surviving, but maybe the e-plastic reader or some other form of digital ink will save them in time.