I usually read the New York Times online so this Sunday I read the Lionel Messi profile that way. It’s a great summation of a great player and nice of the Times to set up the Champions League final so I ripped through it and then went on with my life. Yesterday I happened upon a copy of the Sunday print edition and was astounded by the care and extravagance of the layout. I easily spent twice as long reading the print edition even though I’d already read the story online because the print edition fully integrates scores of graphics, photos and poems into the piece. You can’t and don’t want to avoid them so that the reading experience becomes so much more than just consuming text. Online it’s just another article within a standard template. The related offerings are on the left so you naturally breeze past them as you read.
It’s a dramatic, if just another, example of how badly we’re doing in online publishing. We flow text into our simple templates, associate assets and publish without a problem. Rarely do we ever publish anything outside of a predefined template. After all we designed all these templates to allow us to publish great masses of, primarily, textual information as quickly and easily as possible. It is definitely fast and easy compared to the bad old days before CMS’ but the poverty of the reading experience is equally incredible. I know that there are tons of resource constraints involved but as more people start paying for online subscriptions how long will it take for this to change?