Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting

DISPLAY CONSULTING

 

Lost Convenience…

Seattle used to have two major daily newspapers.  They were natural competitors and worked hard to deliver an excellent product and provide excellent customer service.  However, as happened in many other metropolitan areas, over time these newspapers began to struggle to stay financially viable.  Soon, as advertising revenue continued to drop, the struggle became one of basic survival.  The classified ads that had for many years been a major source of steady income went away to the land of electronic communications. 

Stopgap measures were attempted to try to save both papers.  It was agreed that the one more dominant newspaper would provide printing and delivery services to the other. But given the natural competition, it wasn’t hard to predict that this arrangement would soon fall apart.  And it did.

Unfortunately for me, I preferred reading the newspaper that was having the biggest financial struggle.  The final outcome was that this newspaper decided to stay in business but to be an on-line only publication.  The dominant paper took over all the printed and home-delivered subscriptions.  And, since I still enjoy reading a paper while having my breakfast cereal there was nothing to do but switch to this one remaining home-delivered newspaper.    

There was, however, some editorial content and a few other interesting features that could not be found in the surviving paper.  Thus, the obvious solution was to incorporate a bit of electronic on-line news reading into my daily schedule.  This experience soon led me to a natural comparison of what works best on-line and what doesn’t.

One obvious benefit of the on-line version is that the news can be posted as quickly as events occur.  The “front page” can be changed and updated many times during a day.  Content can be as colorful and dynamic as the editors wish it to be.  And, of course, there are no printing or home-delivery expenses.                       

But no matter how much I try to adapt to on-line reading, there is a lost convenience that I am unwilling to accept.  In the printed version, many pages can be scanned quickly and items of interest are instantly visible.  The on-line access is slow and laborious by comparison.  Take, for example, something as trivial as reading a page of comic strips.  In the printed paper, I simply turn to this page, scan through them, and stop and enjoy a more detailed look at the ones that contain the most “wisdom”.  On the other hand, on-line I have to access and open the home page of the paper, then click on the “comics” tab that then brings up a list of the ones available.  Then I have to click on each one individually and wait for the page to open.  Next, I have to close this page, go back to the list, and click on the following one of possible interest.  There is no way to quickly overview all the strips and see which ones may be of interest to me. 

This in itself is a clumsy and time-consuming process, but there is something else that makes it even more frustrating.  To pay the bills the paper of course has to sell ads.   And to make sure that we see the ads the on-line newspaper places an ad that covers the entire screen every time a new page is accessed.  An option is provided to “cancel” the ad with a small box in the upper right hand corner.  However, even when this box is clicked the ad remains on the screen for several more seconds.  I’m sure that this slow response is not by accident.  It’s a method that purposefully forces me to view the ad no matter whether I wish to see it or not.  The end result is that if I want to see all the comic strips available in this on-line paper, it will take me many times longer to access and read them than in the printed version of a conventional newspaper.  And most certainly it would not be nearly as convenient to do this while having my breakfast cereal.  I would need to have one hand on the mouse continually scrolling and clicking to access all the comic strips. 

The process is similarly clumsy for other subject matter.  The home page has all the major categories of news, sports, weather, and a dozen others.  But each subject must be accessed one screen at a time and for many items it’s not easy to guess where they might be found in the generic menu.  And, of course, by this method the opportunity to browse quickly is lost.  Each category has to be opened, the article titles read, and then the article itself has to be opened.  This three-step process -- with mandatory ads interspersed -- is far more time consuming and less informative than just scanning a printed page and moving on to the next one.  

Electronic communications has given us near-instant access to the latest information and the latest events.  However, there are advantages to the traditional printed media that we should not forget.  Personally, I like to do a quick on-line check a few times during each day to get a summary of the latest world events.  However, I then find it much more efficient and relaxing to read the more detailed descriptions on a printed page the following morning while having my breakfast.  And I can do this without the continual irritation of full-page ads being “pushed” at me every time I try to look at the next screen.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you have managed the transition from print to electronic publications.   Are you ready to spend all your time in front of an electronic display or do you still find printed pages a useful way to access and organize information?  You may contact me directly from this site, by e-mail at silzars@attglobal.net, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.