Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Gray Lady Gets a Dye Job

As The Los Angeles Times struggles with trying to find an identity that will protect its market share in an age of clickable, constantly gyrating content, it is interesting to look at the strategies of the "interactive" New York Times just in today's coverage. First, "How the Pentagon Spread Its Message" has a document archive that includes incriminating e-mails that reveal how Donald Rumsfeld was shielded by the Executive Branch from critics even within the military. Second, "Fold-Ins: Past and Present" is designed to recreate the haptic pleasures associated with the Mad magazine back page creations of Al Jaffee, which were much beloved as amusements in my youth. (When editing an issue of The Harvard Lampoon in college, I insisted on including a fold-in as an homage.) Third, in their globe-trotting video offerings, there is footage and slideshows to illustrate a story on "Chinese Nationalism on the Internet." These are three relatively obvious approaches to improve reader experiences by offering online digital video, archives of primary sources, and Flash interactive content for editorial offerings. Although they are no longer running videogames developed by VP pal Ian Bogost in lieu of more static political cartoons, "the Gray Lady" at least understands that a digital newspaper needs to do more than merely pursue supermarket-style tabloid or fashion journalism. Meanwhile, the LA Times is merely ramping up traditional celebrity and lifestyle stories for the supposedly vacuous denizens of the city, with only online video from AP to make checking out the digital content online.

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