News on paper or online?


I keep on repeating, article after article, on this blog, the concept of the “new web”, how this is a phenomenon much wider than all of us succeed in perceiving today, a dimension, a space, which will change the customs of this century. In a previous article, I have used some statistics in order to describe better this change which, in short, confirms that many of us are “always online” and that this “cyber presence” will continue to grow as far as involving everyone. The numbers give us important indications but, in my opinion, they don’t succeed in representing concretely the change. Much more is needed, therefore I would like to highlight, with the help of a real confrontation, what was “before” and what is “after“, the “real” and the “virtual“.
To do this I have analyzed an area of great interest where the two models, the descriptive sequential one of the 20th century cohabit daily with the new model, visual, fast and interactive of this 21st century, therefore of our times.
Last Monday I bought a papery copy of one of the most important Italian daily newspaper, and that is “Corriere della Sera”, and I read every single page, and soon after the same day, I browsed the version online of the same daily newspaper taking also some screen shots.
To my astonishment the two versions have very little in common. The papery version has a page structure on vertical columns, nine columns differently positioned with six main articles that continue within the newspaper and other six titles corresponding to articles also present inside the newspaper.
On the first “papery” page we find nine images, among these we find a cartoon and, in the four angles, small and middle advertising inserts. We find the same scheme the following pages, mostly characterized by long texts, with an average of two or three images (and some extra image on the sport page, it is Monday after all). The advertising is set aside in big “showcase-pages” made ad hoc.
The symbols used are only a few and the “infographic” elements are practically absent except for the page devoted to weather.
I think, considering the topics raised, the space devoted to football and motorbikes as well as the publicity offered, that this newspaper is oriented toward a predominantly male over 40 audience.
Let’s give a quick look to the version online! The first consideration is related to the contents, they are way different, the version online is updated, the dematerialized information can be updated at every moment, this is why the online site brings today’s news and the papery version yesterday’s news. The main news are all different, which is no small thing. The second difference stays in the number of the contents offered, the web page has an indefinite length and it is opportunely divided in horizontal areas, thing that imposes a certain visual order allowing an easy reading on horizontal sections, from left to right. There are dozens and dozens of articles. I counted the images and only on the homepage they are 142, I remind you that the papery version had only nine and almost all of them in small format.
On the version online they are more articles but shorter, many of them I wouldn’t even consider them as articles, but rather news. Their structure is rather simple and the terms used are basic, sometimes even elementary.
The page contains lots of interactive elements, slide showcases, photo gallery like “Photo story”, videos. Considering the high-level of innovation reached, personally, I would increase the use of the hypertexts, especially the hipertextual weave among the articles.
Paradoxically, the version online, though having much more contains and images, results simpler to visualize, browse and read, in some cases so simple and immediate to seem even banal compared to the “structured” papery version.
My tone in this comparison is deliberately simple, we are on a blog, even if, to say the truth, for an instant I have had the temptation to analyze the “wireframe” or rather the graphic model of design and communication on which the two daily papers are based on.
Seeing the different morphology of the “two daily papers” I’m inclined to believe that the audience is created by different types of people. The version online is oriented to young people and “medium” young people who use internet every day, and therefore who look for a quick reading as well as the latest news and who often choose on the strength of the visual impact due to the terms used and the images provided. The papery version is more reflective, for a less reactive audience, probably more cultured and less frantic.
The papery articles follow the tradition of the “printed paper” , they propose conjectures and showan analytical context. They have a sequential and progressive line.
The articles online are easy and immediate. Most probably the editorial office online is composed by different resources compared with the papery version. Maybe it has different work schedules, always active working on news in brief in contrast to the papery editorial office, more reflective and characterized by the “daily delivery.”
To put it in a nutshell, we have two types of audience, two editorial offices and two ways of operating the information. The splitting between real dimension and virtual dimension becomes more evident when we talk about the journalistic information. Two ways of spreading information, two excellences situated in two different universes, each of them with its rules and its audience.
In conclusion I would like to pay tribute to the “page footer” of the web version where we can find indicated various blogs and forum, a modern and dynamic version from which we cannot leave out of consideration the new ways of communication along with the new tools. My compliments go to the editors online who decided to make such a visionary choice transforming journalists into bloggers and bloggers into journalists.
Returning to the opening question, I consider absolutely anachronistic the diatribe between the information online and the real information, therefore also between the papery information and the information online. They are two complementary universes characterized by different dynamics of use, different services and, often, different audience. The auspice which closes this article stays in the hope that this difference would help to growa plural and well informed society.




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