How do newspapers make use of their website? We’ll find out with the help of Susan Jacobson, who describes the metamorphosis from the print journalism of the New York Times to the transcoded version in the web, called nytimes.com. She analyses the multimedia packages of the website from 2000 to 2008, and will bring us a step closer to the digitalized world of journalism.
Jacobson claims that the multimedia version serves as an accompanying element rather than a replacement of the essence of print journalism, which is the written word – still the foundation of the New York Times, even on their website. But the meaning of the written word might change, and in the article it is argued that the journalistic text on a website is rather to be considered as a starting point to a more detailed exploration of information via multimedia packages.
Jacobson gives the reader a brief overview of multimedia packages from 2000 to 2008, and states that not only has the amount of the packages increased, but even that the trend goes towards a multimedia package without a printed equivalent. Another trend is that hard-news stories are complemented with features; serious news are softened, and made easier to access for the audience. Additionally, it developed that the audience feedback increased over time; also the possibility to share articles via Facebook, Email, Twitter was introduced in 2007.
This is where I’d like to bring in a popular newspaper from Germany, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and its online equivalent sz.de, in order to illustrate what we just learned. On sz.de, these tools are also used. It is possible to discuss, send, print, and share (via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) the articles, as well as to give feedback. These tools are visibly located to the left of the article, as you can see here:
Concerning interactive features, Jacobson claims that the audio slideshow is a popular form, and receives the most attention in the field of online journalism. Besides this, there are many other ways to draw the audience in, like multimedia presentations combining audio, video, graphics, text, animation, or menu-driven presentations, and interactive timelines. We can say that sz.de is pretty updated concerning these forms of interactive features, as we can find many of them on the webpage. As an example: sz.de uses a presentation with a menu to help the user to arrange sz.de as the starter website for their browser. Furthermore, the user is confronted with an interactive timeline showing the latest updates on articles on the first page. This timeline unfolds when you move the cursor over it, and shows when the last articles were posted.
On the other side, sz.de lacks the so-called ‘process-oriented’ journalism. This can be found on nytimes.com, where some features let the reader be the analyst, and the audience playfully explores the news.
On nytimes.com, interactive features are mainly told from the 1st person perspective, and often print stories from 3rd person perspective are combined with 1st person multimedia stories. In this way the space of the online platform is used to give a personal touch and detailed account of individual experiences, which could not be given in a newspaper. There is power given to many different facets of subjectivity. Anyway, nytimes.com provides a balance between reporters’ views and experiences of regular people. Nonetheless, we could even dare to say that this whole development reflects today’s movement towards a user-generated and user-controlled way of presenting information.
However, it seems as if sz.de does not make use of this approach overtly. The articles are mostly narrated by the traditional journalist-voice, instead of the voice of the people.
Another aspect Jacobson focuses on is the photo slideshow, which is comparable to photo essay in a printed newspaper, but is cheaper, has more space for pictures, and doesn’t result in more work if the editor decides to upload more pictures.
On nytimes.com, the development shows that hypertextual and social networking elements become increasingly important in photo slideshows. The aspect of hypertextuality is also prevalent on sz.de, but rather in articles, whereas the aspect of photo slideshows is neglected on the website. In the articles though, several hyperlinks lead the reader directly to another article defining the given term, and describing the background data.
Coming to video, there are many different approaches to be found on nytimes.com, and this makes this way of presenting information a very interesting, though not always most successful one. The video collection on sz.de, on the other side, follows a certain design and structure. Take the videos about medicine, for example: They are mostly narrated by one specialist (Werner Bartens), and do not vary much in their use of imagery. The videos are in a way uniform, but only in their field of topic.
On nytimes.com, the videos mostly stand for their own, without an accompanying written story. Sz.de presents a short introductory text in addition.
Now that we have explored and compared the aspects that were highlighted in Jacobson’s article, I would say that’s enough analysing for today. We could see that nytimes.com, as a leading international newspaper, is definitely some steps ahead of sz.de. Nonetheless, the SZ succeeds using online journalism in their sphere as a national newspaper, and is faithful to their reputation as a serious and consistent provider of information.