One would think that Bezos buying the Washington Post would top the charts in terms of online news headlines. Going alongside the nature on online news, however, lots has been happening both in terms of successes and failures for online news models.
One of the most visible occurrences was the problems with NYTimes.com. The New York Times is often looked to as the newspaper that is doing it right, however, when online services went out for a large part of the day today. People were a twitter. On Twitter (bad joke). Comments ranged from “Can’t hack a broadsheet” via @jaredbkeller to jokes about the episode resulting in honor of the 10th anniversary of the blackout or as a strategy of Bezos to help out the Washington Post. Poynter’s blog has a Storify of other tweeted responses.
This all happened as violence in Egypt escalated, putting the times behind as a news provider (though they did post several entire articles via Facebook). The Wall Street Journal even temporarily dropped their pay wall for a couple of hours, making it free to all readers, possibly in hopes of gathering some of the forlorn NYTimes.com subscribers. The New York Times is now claiming, via Facebook, that the outage was somehow a result of a “scheduled maintenance update.” Though some Facebook users are asking for free access to all articles because of the inconvenience, the New York Times shows no signs of such a promotion, reminding users that access through Facebook and Twitter is completely free.
Other online news stories were less prominent but still important. The San Francisco Chronicle dropped it’s pay wall. In March, they attempted to require an online subscription to see content restricted on the free site, but now, that is no longer the case. All of their stories can now be viewed, for free, on sfgate.com or sfchronicle.com. As newspapers try to stay afloat while moving to online models of publication, it’s interesting to see the 4-month-old pay wall plan fail. It is unclear whether online subscriptions still exist or have benefits, but one thing is clear: the Chronicle has to figure out a new plan to survive in the increasingly online news world because their income won’t be coming from a pay wall anymore.
Lastly, and on an arguably more positive note, NPR redesigned it’s website. It now looks much more like a newspaper. The change was to “create a less overwhelming reading experience.” Design is very important for online news sources, and in my experience traditional news sources tend to be behind and unchanging in their online design. NPR has done a good thing, and hopefully viewers will notice. The organizations who actively care about the design of their news sites are clearly focusing on their online production and care about it. All these stories show, online components CAN’T be a second thought anymore. They have to catch up and stay up every second of every day or people will look somewhere else.