Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Discussion 1: Sydney Morning Herald

Q: How has use of visual hierarchy and grid evolved with the emergence of digital technologies over the traditions qualities and potential constraints inherent in letterpress? Find 2 examples to compare and contrast.

No simpler example comes to me than that of the Sydney Morning Herald. Or any newspaper for that matter! The newspaper is the pinnacle of high turnover publications and the driving force behind the evolution of the printing press. Behind the earliest 18th century days of the newspaper was not only the simple quintessential role of the 'watchdog' journalist paid the equivalent of a Nightingale (the guy who lit the london gas street lights) but also the month long printing process that saw to only the smallest handful of literate citizens getting news that was faster spread through gossip. Not to even start to mention the amount of content they would try to fit on one page in up to 7 or 8 columns to reduce paper costs! Cynical? here, take a look...

Source: click here

But today is something different... Yes that original medium still stands I do confess. The job hungry journalist that aims for the 11pm deadline for print; the desperate editor that struggles to meet it; and the news ravished citizen that still wants a tangible piece of paper to read with their iced-venti-caramel macchiato. But the difference is the obvious. The internet. The SMH's online publication gets more daily hits that its daily paper circulation. In short, we don't have time for a coffee and a sit down. We need convenience. So lets compare...

Above all, the mot obvious grid difference is the change from vertical to horizontal framing. Resultantly from the user interface sizes. But its also interesting to not the change in the volume of content. Both of these page views are within a year of each other and so, can be compared quite fairly. I think it's also safe to say the printed edition favours a focal point of content, given the encapsulating image of the injured man during the Boston Bombings. However this is not the case for the online version. The website edition follows a rather typical three layered grid, one that many websites use (we all know the type. the menu up the top, the body in the centre and the little extra links and info down the bottom) however whats most different is the immediate focus on the paid advertisement as opposed to content. This is largely the case on most days for the constantly updated website. this can be largely put to the difference in demand. Advertisers favour online to print due to the growing viewer numbers and opportunities for animated adds and direct links.

However, even with this huge Samsung ad slapping you in the face, interestingly the website still aims to fit more stories into the grid page than the print version. This can be theorised and put to many reasons. The one I agree with most is the fact-of-purchase. Most likely with the printed issue, the reader has already bought the newspaper- SMH need do no more. But with online, SMH must do all they can to make sure their reader stays on their website. The sure most way to do so is to make sure the reader can immediately see something of interest to them on the first page. Seems as though perhaps a shift towards that old school newspaper may be happening. Lets hope we don't get 7 to 8 columns on our 768 x 1024 screens. Though stack overflow, predicts a wider screen to soon fit it!

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