A New York Times Performing Arts Story: Print vs. Digital

New York Times author, Ben Ratliff, offers a detailed glimpse into a night marked by the dynamic performance of captivating jazz music at the NYC Winter Jazzfest Marathon.

Analyzing both the print and digital versions of this story, I spent more time on the digital version (about 7 minutes on print, and closer to 17 on digital.) This was because the digital version was easier to navigate, there were more photographs to click through, and there was more opportunity to travel down different avenues provided by convenient links. Furthermore, digital platforms are what I am most comfortable with, as they are what I use to consume most of my daily information and entertainment.

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The initial difference I noticed upon comparing the New York Times’ treatment of the same story on their print platform versus their online platform was the use of photographs.

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On the New York Times website, there is a slideshow made up of fourteen photographs from the event, and in the newspaper article, eight photographs are included. Obviously, an online platform allows for the use of a wide array of photographs to complement a story. On the other hand, print platforms force journalists to choose the few photographs that they feel are the most representative of the event. Those in charge of arranging the photographs within the newspaper must also choose the single photo that they will enlarge and use as the center of attention, hopefully coaxing audience members into becoming interested and reading the article in its entirety.

While this aspect seems to be a strength of the online presentation, it could also be considered a weakness. Often times this lack of limitation on photo utilization leads to the addition of unnecessary photographs. For example, the wider lens photographs featured on the website that do not necessarily add to the story or induce feeling. Furthermore, the layout of the print version is much more pleasing to the eye, and does not require the reader to work through a slide show (great for an ever convenience-seeking America).

Another difference between the article’s digital coverage and its print counterpart is the means of navigation throughout each. With the online version, readers are provided with several links on the front page of the website. Each sports an intriguing title, cover photo, and single-sentence synopsis, hoping to win a click.

hot sets

In the case of this article, with a single click the reader is in. The entire story is in front of them along with fourteen photos to click through. Contrarily, in the newspaper the readers are given a large taste of this story, and if they wish to read the entire story, they are instructed to turn to page six. This is much more taxing than a simple click, and readers must be invested enough at this point to want to turn through five other pages. This difference is a strength for the digital version, and a weakness for print.

In their Innovation Report, New York Times lay out several goals for their digital platform. They discuss their desire to “start a discussion” and seek to do this through “audience development.” “It is about getting more people to read more of our journalism,” they say.

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Part of this audience development involves a step that they call “connection.” This is the creation of a two-way relationship with their audience that amplifies reader loyalty. A few ways the New York Times has sought to do this is through the use of elaborate writing, as well as personalization of content.

The author of “Hot Sets and Warm Chilly Nights at NYC Winter Jazz Fest” does a nice job of connecting with his audience. Beginning with his warm, fuzzy title and carrying on with his colorful language, the author makes his readers feel as though they are actually present in that room while the musicians lull them into a deep mesmerization. “But when you heard any player on that rich instrument, you had a direct connection to his or her playing. You could get inside it and hear it all the way around,” he paints.

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Another innovation that the New York Times is focusing on is personalization. While the NYT realize that their readers go to them to discover what they consider the top stories of the day, NYT also recognize the importance of “using technology to ensure that the right stories are finding the right readers in the right places at the right times.”  NYT use a strategy which studies readers’ surfing habits and then allows the website to recommend stories that may be of interest to individual readers, but that may otherwise be hidden on the site. This is especially relevant for readers who are perhaps interested in articles related to the arts, like this one, as the arts are not necessarily of interest to the majority of readers and are rarely featured as cover stories. Of course this personalization is another major strength of the online platform.

Other attempts at personalization can be found within phrases like “tenor saxophonist” and “steeply raked theatre” as used by Ratliff in his article. These phrases are personalized for an audience with some sort of background in performing arts. Readers without knowledge in this area may not feel as included as they grapple with the definition of “tenor” or “steeply raked.” Recognizing this, it draws the intended audience even closer, creating a deeper bond between author and reader.

The New York Times shall receive a B- for reaching the aims outlined in their Innovation Report, based on this particular article. The article was promoted well (another goal established in the report.) The title was feeling-inducing and the cover photograph was intriguing. For a reader interested in jazz, I believe it was especially attention-catching, and slightly attention-catching for those less interested. In terms of connection, the language of the article does create a comfortable relationship between the audience and the reader. Perhaps this relationship could have been made more “two-way” with the inclusion of a comments section on this articles webpage. I do commend the NYT on their overall personalization skills, as I began to notice recommendations on their webpage that were geared more toward my interests after several days of surfing their site.

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In conclusion, digital disruption is rapidly abolishing the career of the print newspaper, however both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. I believe that the digital platform provides more opportunity for the NYT to provide fast, convenient and personalized news to their audience, and the NYT must continue and strengthen their strides toward their innovation goals if they wish to beat the competition.

 

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