Sunday, May 11, 2008

Losing at Musical Chairs

After speaking grimly about the fate of The Los Angeles Times in the Internet era with former longtime LA Times board member Susan Babcock at our Polytechnic reunion dinner, it was striking to read the online version of Vanity Fair this month to see how even a print publication known for its attention-getting photographic covers, long prose articles, and ad layout can adapt stories to Internet formats. For example, "The United (Altered) States of Jenna Bush" uses a Google maps interface to chart the drunken escapades of the First Daughter. The incorporation of online audio clips in "9/11 Live: The Norad Tapes" makes the narrative of the decision-making about whether or not to shoot down United Flight 93, which had been overtaken by hijackers bent on urban destruction, even more dramatic alongside the transcripts. "Web exclusives" with Internet slideshows, such as "The Heartbreak Campaign" about Robert Kennedy's 1968 run for the White House, are also appealing to the growing digital audience. If other news rack publications are creating good online content, why is the Los Angeles Times so incapable?

Update: To get a sense of why I say The Los Angeles Times has totally failed to create a compelling Internet edition, check out today's online version of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It is much more web-friendly and contains more original digital video content (although these clips are mostly about local news, unlike the online versions of The New York Times and The Washington Post, which specialize in footage from compelling national and international coverage to complement the accompanying stories).

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