Friday, January 2, 2009
Changing with the Times
If I had to name the single industry with the most urgent need to adapt to the rise of the internet, it's definitely print news. Newspapers in particular have been falling apart across the country, and the decline has only accelerated with the economic downturn. The Chicago Tribune company has filed for bankruptcy, the New York Times company's debt has been downgraded to nearly junk bond ratings, and small papers across the country are cutting back staff and relying more on outsourced content.
This is bad news for them, but good news for everyone looking for cues on what it really means to "innovate or die." The movie and TV industries have been able to stay decently ahead of the internet curve by watching the total disaster that the music industry experienced when they failed to adapt.
Here is a great piece that the New York Times is putting together. It's a multimedia composite piece about debt in America. What really stands out to me is how easy and accessible it feels. They could have taken the lazy way, and simply offered a series of articles, perhaps with links to a few photos spread throughout.
This is a different beast entirely. You can browse through it with no effort and no commitment. You can choose the type of media experience you prefer: photo essays, articles, interactive graphs and of course, videos. This venture into new media tools doesn't mean that the level of journalism has dropped off, either - almost every component of the piece includes new information uncovered by Times reporting. And it's so beautifully tied together, it truly goes far beyond what we could have expected from a newspaper even 2 or 3 years ago.
Now take a look at the website for the House of Representatives, or even the White House. These websites are not too bad, and certainly have come a long way in recent years, but don't invite exploring and interactive discovery the way the New York Times piece does. No question, creating that sort of feature took a lot of work from staff dedicated to improving the online experience. The Times is forced to devote that energy to their online experience because they have no other viable path forward. The government doesn't have that kind of pressure, but perhaps they can learn from watching others, and stay ahead of the curve.