The New York Times has launched a new online tool that aims to make the experience of reading news on the web feel more like browsing through the print edition. Times Skimmer (www.nytimes.com/timesskimmer) attempts to retain the look and feel of a printed paper.
Skimmer sorts articles into sections such as ‘World’ or ‘Business’ and within each category presents an array of headlines and summaries in a grid layout which utilises the full screen width. Users can choose from 7 different customised layouts.
Playing around with presentation of news online in this way calls to mind Google’s recently launched Fast Flip (http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/) which allows users to quickly ‘flick’ through content from a number of partner publishers. In contrast, Michael Wolff and Patrick Spain’s Newser (www.newser.com), which has been around since 2007, attempts to present online news in a way that deliberately moves away from the print idiom to a native web approach which allows users to customise their preference for ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ news.
It’s refreshing to see another major newspaper publisher trying a new format. It’s worth noting though that Skimmer’s prototype was launched in February 2009 – that is, before the current hubbub around the issue of paywalls and subscription models for online news kicked off. Would the NYT do the same thing if it were starting from scratch in the current climate?