Seriously, I know that many of us had a relationship with our newspaper. From the favorite journalists, to the editorial imprint, the layout, the sections, the political persuasion - down to the feel for the recyclable paper.
When the Wall Street Journal redesigned its print publication again (Jan. 2, 2007), the new layout was dissected by many. The narrower and more colorful format for the print edition was greeted with mixed feelings. David Pybas was the lead page one art director and lead designer for the new print edition of WSJ.
Print was to concentrate on analysis stories and to leave the breaking news that used to make up almost half the newspaper for the online edition, which publishes throughout the day. Bringing the front was business news - the most sensitive to a time cycle.
Recognizing that the value of a breaking story diminishes as more publications publish their own online versions within minutes, WSJ aligned its own online property more closely with the print version. I saw it as a good move. Others objected to the smaller size of what they fondly thought of as a more substantial publication just selling out and on the path to becoming irrelevant.
The news of yet more changes to the journal came as recently as April, 2008. Conde' Nast Portfolio.com sounded the alarm by saying that WSJ loads up on opinion, some of it liberal. It was interesting to discover that one of the revamped areas addresses the impact of digital technology on business.
If there is so much passion about the format of a print publication, we are quite adjusted to seeing online layouts change fairly frequently without batting an eyelid. Is this because we do not have a relationship with digital publications? It's not something you hold in your hands, where you turn the pages over coffee or breakfast - a mouse is a mouse is a mouse, whatever site you end up landing on and reading.
What I look for in a digital environment is good navigation and usability so I can find the news bits and occasionally do a deeper dive. I do not mind the stories that scroll over 5 pages or clicks. What I look for in a newsprint publication is also stories. Yet I hold that, turn the pages and fold it as I see fit. One could argue that today they are both quite portable, even as the print may be lighter and easier to discard (I am quite aware of the environmental impact and recycle mine).
The print souvenir is also a much stronger representation of the news organization's brand. It's the physical representation, what we call the hard copy. Online is soft. Is it too soft to invite to a relationship with the brand? What am I missing?
[WSJ Redesign on Flickr, Eston]