Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The New York Times

The first thing I noticed on the New York Times Homepage was the fact that “All the news that’s fit to print” was missing from the site. It’s such a small detail, but something that I have come to expect when reading the printed paper.

The main headline on the page was “Sprinting So Far, Kerry Faces a Marathon”. I clicked on the link and discovered that you have to be a member of nytimes.com in order to access any of the stories. I was sent to a page that informed me, it is free to be a member, and it’s as easy as 1-2-3. Plus, for members there are exclusive Web-only features, etc.

Thankfully, I am already a member, and don’t have to go through the “easy” process again, so after logging in, I was sent back to the homepage. At the top, I have my member center. One of the benefits to being a member, I was able to access archived articles, which I have gotten prompts to pay for before.

Inside another Kerry article, while the story was really good, and what I would expect of the paper, I was bothered by an ad, stuck in the middle of the story that kept flashing and changing screens as I was trying to read. I guess there are some benefits to reading the print version. Maybe that is why at the bottom of the page I was offered the opportunity to get home delivery from 2.90/week…(and up).

The site had an interesting banner ad for the NY Times Knowledge Network. College students could write an essay on civic engagement for the “Student Perspectives” essay contest, and win a $200 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. (Would this be considered cross-promotion?) Since this was an interesting topic of our online discussion, maybe someone from class should apply.

With the requirement that people become members, the member center, and the option to personalize your weather, I think the NY Times definitely feels its audience consists of regular users, people who probably read the paper in print form as well, well-educated individuals (including college students). Users also have the option to e-mail articles to others, which I found useful for an article I am using for extra credit for another class. The features of the site are definitely intended to be user-friendly, especially with the option of viewing other similar articles after reading one you might be interested in.

The main focus of the home page is the presidential campaign. I noticed that the top of the Home page had relatively few advertisements, but as I scrolled down to see the headlines from the different sections of the paper (business, sports, arts, etc.), the side bars showed adds for Marriott hotels, Citibank, and a radio station that I could listen to “now” online.

One thing that really pointed out the profit motives of the paper was at the very bottom of the page, On This Day section. It read On March 3…1991: Rodney King was severely beaten by Los Angeles police officers in a scene captured on amateur video. It then offered to let me see the front page from that day, or I could buy any front page since 1851. So much for free access to information. It did offer some interesting historical information I guess (Did you know that Tone Loc turns 38 today) but it doesn’t really speak to my motive for reading the paper.

Overall the content of the paper was pretty good. The amount of advertising was annoying, and there is evidence everywhere that this is a for-profit organization. But I still found quality news, op-ed pieces, and easy access to other information I searched for.

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