By: Kevin Mireles
I hate to say it but the Old Gray Lady needs a major face lift if it’s going to be welcomed in my home again.
We’d been getting the Wall Street Journal for the last few years, until we received a gift subscription to the New York Times so we let our subscription to the Journal lapse. My wife and teenage daughters really enjoyed the Journal’s inviting layout, easy-to-read articles and especially the Market Place, Personal Journal and all the Weekend Extra sections, but I loved the New York Times articles on the Web and was looking forward to receiving the entire paper.
So after three months of the New York Times, our family unanimously agreed, the Times was out and the Wall Street Journal was back on our driveway.
While the WSJ still has a focus on business and Wall Street in particular, it didn’t feel like it was written just for Wall Street insiders. There were articles on politics, international affairs, science, family, education, relationships, etc., that were easy to read and of interest to the family.
On any given day there were always more than a few articles that interested adults and teenagers alike. While the Journal may not have as much written content as the New York Times, the layout was a lot more user friendly for a busy family always on the go. So at the end of the week, you actually learned more even if there was less actual text/content.
The New York Times, on the other hand, seemed like a big gray mass of text with an overwhelming number of articles and even worse, an intense focus on the New York arts and culture scene, about as a relevant to a Memphian as Memphis city politics are to New Yorkers.
While it featured some great articles, the total amount of text was too much to read and the stories too hard to find. Everything was so buried in a sea of words that even though our family is very internationally focused (One spouse is from Europe. I’m half Argentine. One daughter wants to be a diplomat, etc.), the length of the articles made it difficult to find the time to read them all.
Instead of being able to quickly ingest an article or two over breakfast before dashing out the door, you needed to plan on setting aside time for a three-course meal to digest articles in the Times. Rather than being an enjoyable Sunday read, going through it was viewed as kind of a chore, and mostly abandoned by everyone except for myself—a former reporter and intense news junkie.
When I was a reporter at the Orange County Register, we used to grouse about the travesty of having to write more condensed articles and having our articles chopped to fit the paper’s easy-to-read design guidelines. After I left and started editing/designing publications, I discovered the importance of design. And now as a busy dad and marketer, I’ve come to appreciate good design even more, which is one reason why I appreciated the Journal, and why I’m even more surprised that the Times hasn’t focused more on making its content more accessible.
Another part of the problem is the “New York” in the New York Times. While many—daresay, most of us—outside of New York embrace the brand for its ongoing history of great journalism, especially its coverage of national and international events, most of us don’t really care about New York, and find the intense parochialism, off putting.
On the Web, it’s less of an issue, as it’s very easy to skip the New York components and dive into the areas of interest; but in the paper form, it’s very distracting.
And, sure, while we’re all “webheads”, nothing beats bringing a good, old-fashioned newspaper to the bathroom, or for sharing articles and commentary with family around the breakfast table.
Now that our gift subscription to the Times has run out, we’ve re-upped our subscription to the Wall Street Journal and are looking forward to relaxing with the paper, rather than working through the paper.