By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

How to make Reader editions better

No doubt the best coding brains at the New York Times Co. are focused on iPad development these days. But as a paid subscriber to the Reader editions of the New York Times and the Boston Globe, I have a few suggestions for how they could be better. I’d want to see these ideas incorporated into the iPad app as well, so please consider this a two-fer:

1. A front-page image of the print edition should be included, just as it is on the papers’ websites. We Reader readers, to coin a phrase, exist in a sort of electronic halfway house: we still read the paper as the paper, but we don’t mind giving up ink on dead trees. So we, of all customers, want to get a sense of what the front looks like.

2. The Reader organizational scheme should be as clear and easy-to-follow as the simple list format the papers use on their websites for that day’s edition (Globe here; Times here). Yes, I can skim through every Reader story very quickly, but sometimes I’d like to select a section front, then pick and choose.

3. Mega-dittoes for the Globe’s “g” section, which is just a mess in Reader. Way too many short items are just thrown up there. It needs a complete rethink.

4. Folks at the Globe need to take photos more seriously when putting together the Reader edition. There are too many instances of context-free pictures with no captions.

5. Reader editions should always link to multimedia extras such as videos. I know of a few occasions when I’ve found out hours after reading the paper that I missed on a terrific video.

My fear is that the Reader platform hasn’t attracted enough users to make further development worthwhile. I almost never see an ad other than a house ad, for instance. I still think it’s a promising idea, though, and perhaps development can take place in parallel with the iPad.

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  1. BP Myers

    “Dead trees” are a biodegradable and renewable resource. Your electronic gadget will be outmoded in eighteen months, and will then be sent off to a third world country to be disassembled by children, who breathe in the toxic smoke of melted down parts, and bathe in and drink water filled with chemicals used to “recycle” it.

    I’ll take dead trees any day.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    @BP: Why are you using a computer?

  3. Laurence Kranich

    1. Yes, please! A front page display would be the second-best improvement they could make.

    2. The newspaper headlines in the Reader don’t always work without an accompanying picture, secondary headline, or the ability to skim the first couple of paragraphs. Plus, from the Reader’s “section front” you can’t see how long or important a story is. In today’s Reader, “2 steps forward, 1 step back” is a big interesting feature about stem cell research, but the headline is utterly meaningless.

    3. For Business and “g”, I sometimes use the “Browse” display. You can more quickly skim through the individual stock graphs and concert listings.

    4. On the other hand, reading the “News In Pictures” section can give you a totally different take on the day’s paper. I don’t use it every day, but it’s always interesting.

    5. This brings me to the number one improvement (for me, anyway). Why can’t they have a “Latest News” section like the Times Reader? All they have to do is add in stories from Metro Desk, Breaking News, etc. I don’t understand why they have to shut off all new content from the Globe Reader at 3 AM.

    I do like the Globe Reader for presenting the context, content, and editing of the daily paper. But it takes me longer to read than the paper edition, largely because I tab through every story. Right now it’s the only newspaper that forces me to fire up the laptop, so I hope they can bring about some of these improvements when they finally introduce the iPad edition.

  4. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy says: Why are you using a computer?

    Heh. Sorry. The phrase “dead tree” (particularly with regard to books) pushes my buttons. There is perhaps nothing greener than a “dead tree” product.

    For what it’s worth, I’m using a 5+ year old Dell, which replaced a 7+ year old Micron. My cellphone too is five years old, replacing a decade old one the phone company made me turn in when it went digital only.

    I’m doing my part!

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