After trying to stuff the Business section into its main News pages, and apparently getting flayed for it, The Age has now tried to stuff the Metro section in there instead. They say that Metro readers were sick of looking through the Sport section to find it. That’s probably true, but will they be any happier looking through the News section to find it? Is ease of navigation really driving the change, or is the Age just trying to reduce the number of tabloid pages it produces for some reason? Will the Metro section mysteriously shrink in times of crises, as the Features so often do?
So far those who consume newspapers in their paper format are probably still in the majority. But this will change over time, and as readers move onto the web, it also changes how they read the news.
The paper version only lets you browse, of course. No keyword searching. And you get less story precis per page, because it’s not just headlines to click on, it’s all of (or most of) the story right there on that page in front of your nose.
On the web, the story that may be splashed across half the front page of the paper version is relegated to just another headline (albeit in a bigger font). Any text you spot and get interested in is unlikely to be in the body of the article, but will be the headline or precis. Pictures are there, but the text dominates.
But whereas visitors to the web site will still browse, those coming through Google News or other search sites will probably find articles by keyword searching. They’re unlikely to see anything they aren’t actively looking for (unless it’s a false search result).
Over time this will impact the old-school media more and more, and they’ll have to adapt to get their content onto the digital devices of the future. It’ll be interesting to see where it all goes. I wonder how long it’ll take before I’m on the train to work in the morning, reading a digital newspaper rather than a paper one.