the present
Type overload

It seems the world is constantly fighting for everyone's time and the media is right there in the middle. If it's not sliding headlines at the bottom of CNN, it's SportsCenter telling viewers to read ESPN.com for details. Some say it's an overload of information. Is there such a thing?

Newspapers online are becoming more interactive with their audiences. Here, UF graduate student Amy Zerba stops to show Mayan children in Belize what they look like on a video camera. The video, along with digital sound, will eventually be added to the website, www.internationaljournalism.com
Beyond print

Online staffs are trying to bring stories to life by adding depth.

'O Brother, How much longer?

The challenge for online designers is having to always consider download time. How can one be creative with the number 14.4 Kbps dancing in their head?

the stories
Tone down the type and make room for multimedia

In the newspaper business, there's the saying, "All the news that's fit to print." Online, it changes to "All the news that's fit to tell." But too much type often times frustrates viewers and can even bore them.

In an April 22, 1995 Editor & Publisher article, Rakesh Agrawal says people should get more than just informational type.

Agrawal, who went from designing an online paper for Northwestern University to a copy editing job at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said, "You can't just dump the full text of a newspaper in text format because nobody is going to read it. You need to design something with visual impact and give more - searching, links with other sources and related stories. You can give people new depth."

When online newspapers do take on special packages with video and audio, it's sporadic. For example, during election time, a few newspapers ran an interactive butterfly ballot online. Why are those type of interactive elements not online every day?

In the same article, Minneapolis' startribune.com editor Rusty Coats said that the mad dash to create election packages may have changed what people want out of a newspaper online.

"Is that something that we need to keep alive?" he said. "Will the reader expect that - whatever the next big story is - we'll have this modular presentation?"

Think beyond the print story

Andrea Panciera of Projo.com strives to capture a story in different ways. She writes in a Winter 2000 article of Nieman Reports that the Providence Journal online staff produced online versions of a series documenting efforts "to save the right whale, explored the potential for tourism along an old mill river, and shared the summer with wealthy Newport society."

In doing so, the site brought "stories to life by providing the voices of real people or showing the Web viewer the scene as if he were there himself," she said in the article. "Our stories have merged in-depth print narratives with action, all the while maintaining the editorial standards and sensibility that print journalists say set them apart from most of their broadcast counterparts."

In essence, what these "Digital Extras" are doing accommodates the growing and different ways people get information.

Waiting and waiting and waiting ...

Download time can kill any online newspaper website. But doesn't it seem like people will wait a little bit extra on news sites vs. commercial sites because they want to get the news their looking for? And newspaper sites seem like they are taking longer and longer to upload, which makes interactivity on these sites even tougher.

Take washingtonpost.com executive editor Douglas Feaver for example. In a Dec. 11, 2000 Editor & Publisher article titled "Getting an eyeful," Feaver says his staff is rethinking how his site has used audio and video clips. While they are popular, they take up too much memory and download time, he says.

"Two minutes is really the maximum for an Internet experience," Feaver says in the article. "Interactive isn't TV yet."

But he shares an example of how viewers will typically go to what they want anyway. His site posted audio clips concerning the election. They drew one-third as many listeners as the tape of the weekly press conference by Minnesota Vikings football coach Denny Green. Even with a crazy election race, Coat reminded himself that football "will always be the most popular multimedia item on our site."

back to top