Thursday, 22 May 2008

The New Look International Herald Tribune

I'll be brief.

Hard to complain about the loss of the dingbat from the masthead, nor the heavier play of the New York Times. There is nothing wrong with a global edition of the New York Times, provided they mean by that not a newspaper for American readers of the NYT, but global readers of the NYT and/or the IHT.

How then a piece about baseball in the Netherlands (where I lived for 3 years) got more play directly next to an article about a cyclone in Burma that has killed around 100,000 people is a little hard to follow, but let's put this down as a Day 1 aberration.

As to putting chess, comics, crossword etc all on one page - well, there is a heck of an idea that has been floated at edit since about 1901 I would guess. Certainly in my time there, it persistently came up, and one wonders why the ancien regime fought so hard to obstruct such simple ideas so clearly beneficial to the structure and order of the book. But no matter, finally it is done.

As to that army comic going, Blondie and Dennis the Menace, how that could have taken so long to arrive I can't imagine. People started finding these comics unfunny before they even drew the same conclusion about Art Buchwald, so really they were house guests who had long over stayed their welcome.

As to the redesign, I'll come back to this another time, but it falls into the steady but incremental change school of newspaper redesign, an approach favoured by the cautious and confused. I doubt their post bag will be bulging with complaints, save about type size as opposed to font. IHT readers are so damn old you see!

I think some definition of what audience we intend to serve as the Global Edition of the NYT would be helpful for readers; perhaps one exists internally.

There was once a line written by someone (was it me?) that the IHT should be cognizant of all its international readers and favour none (i.e Americans) and that American coverage should be proportionate to the relevance of the USA in the world, not a reflection of the interests of a minority audience (still sizeable) wanting lots of American news (Americans).

The biggest concern is where this Global Edition is run from, beyond the cosmetics of a Paris newsroom, and who writes for it and edits it. Because one thing is for sure. The average NYT-Manhattan centric NYT employee is anything but global. Less of a problem for the foreign news desk, a big potential problem for op-ed and features.

Their overall information hierarchy and information 'type' model is still flawed, but then which newspaper isn't?

So no spitting out my coffee moment, at least not for now, although I was extremely annoyed to find my wife 'playing' one of those ridiculous numbers games they have now put in; so engrossed was she that she was unable to reply to a question and chat with with me until she had finished.

You see millions of people, who could be reading BOOKS, doing these things all over the place. I have an absolutely non-mathematical brain, save armed with my reliable Excel spread sheets, so it is of little interest and some annoyance to me, but I suppose this is what the people want; bread and numbers games they can do on their way to the office.

My wife however tells me Sudoko (sic?) isn't a big media conspiracy to distract people from the sheer horror of commuting by public transport in rush hour, but in fact, very good for the brain, especially as one ages.

So, for IHT readers, it will be of particular benefit.


OPL, Paris said...

The dingbat has appeared on the front page of the IHT and its NY Tribune predecessor for almost daily for ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY TWO YEARS (142). Can you imagine the Times of London without their dingbat (or whatever they call it)?! The internet has been around for just over 10 years--and they're doing this for digital-friendliness...

Like I said on the IHT Developer Blog, I'm concerned at the fact the NYT is just slowly accustoming us (its audience) to the change to the NYT-Global Edition brand. (Waiting for the IHT readership to die out?!) The IHT is looking more and more like a spinoff of the NYT and less and less like a standalone paper with its own international perspective. Maintaining the IHT's identity--through its brand, history as well as investing in exclusive resources--does not seem to be a priority for the NYT.

Loss of character = loss of sales, no? (Unless theres a big enough pool of people who enjoy the anonymous-ness of much of the IHT Business with Reuters section that is slowly taking over the paper.) The paper's heart and soul lie in many elements that include the dingbat, the city of Paris, the exclusive columnists who make the IHT unique (who've included Buchwald, Wells, Abt, Zwerin, Vinocur...).

PS/Anyone remember the dingbat "explosion" animation in an IHT ad campaign from a couple of years ago? Surely IHT marketing folks saw value in it then?

Anonymous said...

Tad surprised about your unconcern over the subname, "The Global Edition of the International Herald Tribune."
Non-American readers don't care about the NYTimes -- it's the International Herald Tribune, NOT the New York Times.