Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Ways to Read the Times

NYTimes.com has an experimental new interface intended to simulate Sunday Times tabletop browsing.

Says the FirstLook blog:

"Here at The Times, we often hear a common story of usage from our customers: Reading the Sunday Times, spreading out the paper on a table while eating brunch. For many of our customers, this ritual is fundamental to their enjoyment of the weekend, and its absence would be jolting.

"With this in mind, we present an as-yet-unnamed article skimmer. Think of it as an attempt to provide the Sunday Times experience anytime. Of course, there are parts we can’t replicate: the satisfying crinkle of the paper; the circular stain of your coffee; the smell of newsprint."

The prototype ArticleSkimmer gives you 17 "section" pages, each a 5x4 display of story summaries in 19 boxes -- one double-size at the top. You browse from section to section with the space bar and can choose stories with the mouse or a keyboard shortcut.

Hold down the letter "a" for "article," and numbers appear in all the story boxes. Type the number to load a story. (I learned about the shortcuts by clicking a question mark at the top of the page.)

It's fast. It's easy. It's free, and no ads jump out at you until you go to a story page. Presumably "monetizing" this interface somehow will come along if the word "prototype" drops out of the address.

If the traditional newspaper section names (World, U.S., Politics, Technology, Sports etc.) aren't your style, try Dave Winer's "river of news" approach, the time-stamped latest items from Times RSS feeds, at nytimesriver.com

(Dave's blog, Scripting News, is where I heard about the Times article skimmer item.)

Related -- the Times also has expanded the ways that Web developers can make use of Times material. For an only slightly technical discussion, see this Poynter.com column on what the developers call the Times Article Search API.

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