The subject I’m going to bitc–, err, contemplate on is familiar territory to many and I’m not sure if I can offer anything new. What I can offer, though, is my point of view. See, during my short stay (anything less than a decade is short) in Wales, I’ve come to like British newspapers. Not the dull weekday editions, but the glorious, overflowing weekend lumps of processed pulp. In fact they provide so much reading that it’s interfering with my proper reading, you know, novels and such.

I like to split them down according to sections and sort them into different piles: sport, business, travel first (cos I’m not really interested in them), news pages second, review and magazines last. I just finished with the last Sunday paper and am now slowly moving onto the magazines of which there are approximately half a dozen.

The thing is that you just can’t do this stuff with WWW versions. They’re handy for references because of hyperlinking, most of them are still free (the Times requires a registration), some of them have even more stuff online than in print, they’re searchable etc. But it’s damn near impossible to go through them, from alpha to omega, in an orderly fashion. Plus that usually the web versions aren’t very readable – they still use tables or layers to emulate fixed-size columns, printer-friendly pages don’t have even rudimentary navigation (not to mention pictures) and so on ad nauseam. This is the main reason I haven’t gotten into reading the New York Times or Washington Post regularly. I’ve tried, especially with NYT’s Sunday edition, but it just isn’t working.

So what could be done to solve the problem? Well, a downloadable PDF version might work. After all, most publishing systems are perfectly capable of doing such things, and many even use them as an interface between the DTP system and the press. But then again, PDFs really aren’t suitable for online reading, especially when they’re large – and we’re talking about hundreds of pages of material here.

One might do what Keskisuomalainen is trying and produce an image/text hybrid for online reading. It fulfills some of my conditions: one can browse through it in a linear matter and it’s perfectly readable because the stories are presented in a text-only format. However, you cannot download it, which means that you have to be online, and that can still be an issue unless you’ve got a nice laptop and a nice WLAN set up. And where’s search?

Even if the virtual approach used by KSML was perfected, there’d still be other things that need attending to. For example, the print edition’s page numbers should definitely be cross-referenced with online pages. Think of it as an universal URL (actually I’m quite sure that there are techies out there who’ve deviced a way to assign unique identifiers to newspaper pages… or am I thinking of ISSN?).

For the sake of argument lets assume that all the newspapers finally find a solution that’s both usable and viable. The big question is: how did they achieve the latter? Online publishing has been a bogey man for the traditional media for nearly a decade. No one knows how to make people pay for content unless for niche markets (say, porn and stock market). A complaint heard often enough in all the newspapers around the world is ”if I could choose, I’d only get the news/sports/arts/comics pages”. Well, it could be achieved online. In fact I think it would be reasonable. Adverts could be targeted better, people would have less complaints, (proportionally) more money could be charged for reading just a few pieces of the paper and so on. Of course this all would require people to regard online versions not as a burden but a possibility. And unfortunately the event horizon for this is still quite some time away.

It’s a shame entries cannot be filed into multiple categories in blosxom. Notes like this clearly belong under both internet and media.

Aiemmat versiot:

There are no revisions for this post.