Mortally-wounded tree edition.

Monday, March 8th, 2010

To celebrate a Sunday that showed some signs of pulling out of the greyness that this winter has been, I went out early-ish and picked up a dozen bagels and, almost as an afterthought, a six dollar copy of The New York Times, which some of you may not know is an actual newspaper, published on big ol’ soy-ink chugging presses nightly from a couple of dozen offset printing plants around the country.

Yes, we bought the paper. Now, for someone who went to journalism school and contemplated life amidst the ink-stained before being seduced by the blue crackly glow of television, this may not seem that surprising. But truth is, as much as I love the idea and honor the history of newspapers, reading the news on newsprint is amazingly unsatisfying, as if I’m pawing through two-day-old printouts left in some newsroom’s recycled bin. It feels, old, stale, expired. Didn’t we see that Style section story on the web on thursday? Where are the Times blogs breathlessly updating the story of the Cablevision-Disney battle that threatened cable viewers’ view of the Oscarcast?

I’m not one who believes that when magazines and newspapers make the switch to iPad-like delivery, they should become some sort of multimedia animation-fest. in fact, I think they’ll do just fine if they avoid discarding a handful of things:

  • Layout matters. Columns, headlines, callouts, color, and big photos will look superb in a tablet. You really don’t need to go much beyond the classy approach you’d see in the print Sunday Times Magazine.
  • Ads in context. Part of the charm in paging through the NYT Arts and Leisure section on Sunday always was (and remains) seeing the huge ads for moveis and shows interspersed with the editorial content. Again, if they’re NOT flashfests or blink-monstrosities, they’ll get noticed and appreciated for what they are…advertising wrapped around some of the world’s most prestigious content.
  • We always will welcome and find ways to pay for well-edited, carefully sourced, copyedited, and corrected content. Shovel dross at us and we won’t care how much it animates…it’ll be dead to us.

The upcoming iPadThingie can be my BBC Newspad, perfect for reading whole eating mysterious earth-tgoned puddings in zero gravity, or accompanying fresh-made bagels on an Atlanta Sunday morning.