Washington Post launches electronic edition.
August 22, 2002 8:23 PM   Subscribe

Washington Post launches electronic edition. The whole paper is available online with a combination of Flash and HTML. I even downloaded it as a 20MB PDF for viewing later. Is this the future of newspapers? Are we headed towards paper-less editions of the newspaper? [More...]
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (29 comments total)
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Link via: Todd Dominey of What Do I Know?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:25 PM on August 22, 2002

Are we headed towards paper-less editions of the newspaper?

I certainly hope so, I just need to get wireless ethernet and a light laptop that I can carry around the house and read my paper over breakfast. I already get most of my news and comics online anyway.
posted by BartFargo at 8:28 PM on August 22, 2002

Hard to believe that people still buy the dead-wood editions.
posted by goethean at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2002

[Sigh] I really don't understand why there is no Mac support to download the PDF file version. (Yes, I have a two button mouse.)
posted by jca at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2002

I would love to see more and expanded AvantGo versions of sites and newpapers. AvantGo makes the delays in my day go along a lot faster. As PDA's have more Ram and can handle more docs, I would take that anyday.
posted by Coop at 8:39 PM on August 22, 2002

Actually the NYTimes did this a while back. PC Magazine also is playing with the idea.

Paper newspapers aren't going anywhere soon. The reps from NYT and PCMag showed me this concept a while back and I was sceptical about its success. I tried to think of when I would download the giant file and read it. An airplane trip came to mind since that is when I read the paper versions. But why would I want this content offline on my computer?

The paper version has its advantages: it is cheaper, lighter, recyclable, it does not require a broadband connection, and it's batteries do not die.

I think that media websites have a long way to go make their websites more readable to those of us online. The electronic version laid out like the paper does not help in terms of on-screen readability.

Ziff was trying to sell me on the idea that the electronic version laid out like the magazine was great because readers would see my print ad and it could hotlink to my website. My question back was how is this different than the banner ad on your website? Uhh...

I'm hoping the newspapers/magazine of tomorrow are like those in minority report. Same form factor but with real-time news.

on preview: BartFargo saidI just need to get wireless ethernet and a light laptop that I can carry around the house and read my paper over breakfast

I already do that at home, the office and at Starbucks. Once you go wireless you can't be tied down again.
posted by birdherder at 8:44 PM on August 22, 2002

Hopefully this initiative will ultimately be more successful than the 'paperless office'.
posted by mathis23 at 9:09 PM on August 22, 2002

Though I do not see WashingtonPost listed as a client, NewsStand provides this service (transferring news print to the Web) for several newspapers and magazines.

Looking through the Post, online, I am reminded of something very obvious Roger Black once said. He said something like: Design TV programs for the TV; Design newspapers and magazines for print; and Design electronic media for the Web. It seems this approach by the Post and NewsStand is contrary to Black's philosophy. Also asking the obvious, isn't newspaper design ideal for print, and not necessarily for the Web?
posted by quam at 9:12 PM on August 22, 2002

The Post uses Olive Software's ActivePaper.
posted by quam at 9:15 PM on August 22, 2002

You can't wipe your bum with an electronic edition!
posted by skinsuit at 9:26 PM on August 22, 2002

I tell my local papers that I will pay for a subscription once I can get the whole paper on line. I've been polled twice in the last 5 years. 5 years ago they said "huh?" a few months ago it was one of the selections in the poll.

not available yet though.

I also just realised that I work in a 99% paperless office. The only things I have in hard copy are the things I want a hard copy of. nothing is required to be in hard copy ... ever. Never really thought of it before. Yay Siebel.
posted by Dillenger69 at 9:31 PM on August 22, 2002

As PDA's have more Ram and can handle more docs, I would take that anyday.

Amen brutha.

If given the choice of having my face buried in my Clie' reading Avantgo channels or whipping out a humungous paper version of the Chicago Trib, I'd choose the latter.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:47 PM on August 22, 2002

This is what Iranian newspapers have been doing for the past 3 years, for free by the way. It may sound foolish, but there are many many Iranians in exile who would want to read these papers. However, the internet hype has just begun in Iran. Examples: Hayat-e No, Iran, Nowrooz (now banned)
posted by hoder at 10:13 PM on August 22, 2002

Naturally, it's easier to distribute something in a foreign language and character set (Farsi/Arabic) than trying to negotiate settings between server and browser. (Look at all the trouble MeFi has, just with UTF-8 ...)

I've said before, don't try to consider whether this will "replace" the paper edition. It's aimed at a very small market; the costs will be borne by employers. Probably mainly executives who travel, and people in media and PR. Sure, they want to pick up casual home readers as well, but that's not the chief aim. Ultimately the print edition is more convenient for most people for all the reasons cited above.

Previous related threads.
posted by dhartung at 10:42 PM on August 22, 2002

Being a person who stares at a screen for 8-12 hours a day, I look forward to reading something on paper. That said, it would be nice while on a crowded subway to read the paper on a teeny handheld. Then again it would also be nice to get a seat. Cupholders, too.
posted by panopticon at 11:12 PM on August 22, 2002

i love reading paper news. it is better than surfing, faster, easier on the eye and you read more and more widely as stories catch your eye.

and you don't have to register to read a 'proper paper'.

why exactly do so many news sites require registration? it is so inconvenient and makes stories harder to link to. i don't want 'personalised content', i just want to read the damn thing.

i would appreciate some insight here.
posted by quarsan at 12:24 AM on August 23, 2002

This will make more sense as e-ink gains ground as a medium. The NYTimes has some money invested in them, as does Hearst communications. Ideally, the interface will have print resolution and be nice and roomy, but be able to stream video right inline. Man that would be sweeter than mag wheels.

Am I the only person that finds the fullsized paper to be a hideously inconvenient medium? Even on real dead tree pulp? You have to unfold the goddamn thing to turn the page. If only the tabloid form factor didn't have such a lousy name.
posted by condour75 at 1:20 AM on August 23, 2002

why exactly do so many news sites require registration?

My guess is they want to know who reads the content. Either advertisers demand the demographics, or the paper itself just wants all the user info they can get, just because they can get it. I've built many web sites requiring registration for no particular reason.

Then of course one wonders how much insight they can glean from the thousands of records looking like this (gleaned from McSweeney's):

Name: asdf
Address1: asdf
Address2: asd
City: asdf
State: Alabama [drop-down menu]
Zip Code: 11111
Country: Albania [drop-down menu]
posted by Triplanetary at 3:35 AM on August 23, 2002

I enjoy "dead tree" editions and in the past I've subscribed to our local paper which has more news than their on-line version.

The problem I have with 'paper' papers is after they deliver them ~I~ , or *I*, or _I_ (heh) have to dispose of them and the disposal is mandatory recycling.

I'm lazy and I have enough trash to dispose of. Three or four times a year I receive calls trying to get me to subscribe again, and I tell them if they are willing to pick up their used paper I'm willing to subscribe, they aren't and I don't.

News papers and magazines often tout the fact that they use x% recycled paper, I'd be more impressed if they actually recycled their own.
posted by DBAPaul at 3:46 AM on August 23, 2002

I don't like it. I read washingtonpost.com online every day, and the thing that annoys me the most about that site is its poor navigability and intrusive advertisements.

I realize now that the paper-based Washington Post is even worse. Instead of having skyscraper ad banners with distracting animation that take up only a fraction of the screen, now I have enormous full page ads that go on for pages and pages and pages. I click on the link to the next page, and I have no idea what I'm going to get. Maybe an ad, maybe a random bullshit story I have no interest in. Those clicks add up. I'm surprised at how quickly I lost interest.

All the time and energy it took to make this new site work would've been better spent on making a more navigable and usable washingtonpost.com. The web is not print. The web is the web.
posted by ratbastard at 6:24 AM on August 23, 2002

Once something like a light, durable, reliable, cheap, easy-to-use tablet computer catches on, the "paper" edition of the newspaper will get some real competition. One thing is for sure - it won't be a copy of the print version in PDF. It cracks me up that they are doing that. Any successful electronic version would take advantage of the nature of the Internet with links, personalization, etc...
posted by quirked at 6:38 AM on August 23, 2002

The web is not print. The web is the web.

Well-said, ratbastard. I get the WP delivered at home everyday, and I use washingtonpost.com everyday as well. To put an exact relica of the print version online seems redundant, and its readability and usability have a long way to go when compared to the dead-tree version.
posted by dayvin at 6:45 AM on August 23, 2002

Speaking of personalization, as a newspaper veteran of some years, I wonder what you guys think about that.

See, to me, one of the great things about newspapers and other general-interest publications is they assume I have general interests, and I'm always surprised by something I read there. When people talk to me about electronic services that allow you to craft your own newspaper so that it only contains the info you want, I think, "Where's the surprise, then?"

I mean, I guess I'd read a publication that covered my personal waterfront -- equestrian sports, cooking, local news, parenting, Warren Zevon, etc. -- but I'd be far less likely to have my horizons broadened by it.

You can argue all you want about gatekeeping in the print product, but in my experience, the genius editors and writers are the ones who see something you might want to read about before you know you do.
posted by nance at 7:26 AM on August 23, 2002

I am in the middle of a move, and I would find it hard to wrap my dishes with laptops.

But seriously, I come into my office at 7:55 AM each morning and leave at 5:00 PM each day, and just about every minute not occupied by eating, tinkling, or sleeping in mindless meetings is occupied by my staring into a monitor. Step away from the cubicle! Currently, I read much more of the print Tribune than I do the online version. So I can stay an informed elitist, please continue to print on paper. Let's make Smokey the Bear and Bushie the President happy and do our part to prevent forest fires.
posted by alou73 at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2002

in my experience, the genius editors and writers are the ones who see something you might want to read about before you know you do.

I think the genius page layout people also have something to do with it. (I used to do page layout... production department in tha hizzouuuse!)

The brilliant thing about standard newspaper design---and it's all sort of the same stuff, even when a USA Today comes along and rocks the world with pretty color pie charts---is that it's an amazing facilitator for fast scanning, and it's very easy for a user to fall into reading something he didn't know he was interested in. When you take that same lovely nine or ten square feet of an opened newspaper and try to translate it to the web, suddenly you have to do all this clicking and scrolling and zooming and it just absolutely doesn't work anymore.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2002

nance - I think personalization can be good for certain subjects. Having only your stocks listed is much easier than finding them in the paper. I do agree with your point about broadening your horizons. Like anything else, personalization is good if used in moderation.
posted by quirked at 8:46 AM on August 23, 2002

I wake up at 6:00 am every morning, drag myself out of bed and eat cereal while reading the paper Post before heading out for school. Frankly, I can't visualize myself booting up the computer and "leafing" through a virtual edition while half asleep and scarfing down breakfast before I have to catch the bus.

Also, like others have said above this, I like getting occasional surprises. When I go through all the sections I am forced to look at articles that on the electronic edition I might have never come across. I think the paper and electronic editions of the Post really cater to different crowds...I doubt electronic will ever totally take over..
posted by puffin at 8:49 AM on August 23, 2002

I would love to give the Times my money for their downloadable version, but each issue expires in 30 days or something like that. (Presumably because they charge an obscene $2.50 for each story retrieved from their archives.) Searchable, archivable, durable: this is what I want from an online paper.
posted by stonerose at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2002

stonerose, most libraries have access to Lexis-Nexis or another comparable newspaper archive that you can search for free, and some libraries let you access it over the web if you type in your library card #.
posted by panopticon at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2002

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