New-look NPR.org a welcome sight for sore eyes

Some recurring eye troubles that in recent weeks have had my optometrist prescribing one medication after another to alleviate inflammation also have prompted me to step away from the computer for longer spells.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve been muttering to myself about the decline of newspapers. So much easier to read! Nothing to turn on and boot up. Etc., etc.

Yet what’s in them, generally speaking, is more watered-down and less interesting than ever, especially as the possibilities of how the news can be organized on the Web continue to amaze. They’ve remained only possibilities in many instances, however, because of the tendency of news sites to clutter up their main pages.

So when I first started tooling around the redesigned NPR.org site, my eyes feasted on the simple, horizontal and clean look, the well-organized visuals. How easy it was to roam around and find something without having to strain, or type in a search phrase that may not yield what’s being sought. Prominent subject tabs across the top and down the left sidebar have helped solve this issue tremendously. As opposed to the former vertical arrangement of the NPR home page, this new point of entry is a vast improvement. Picture 1

I like the philosophy behind the redesign and how NPR really means to make itself as a multi-platform organization. It’s doing more than talking about it in some abstract future.

I haven’t yet dug down deep to try out the bells and whistles and many other features on the NPR site, and I’m not sure how other mainstream news organizations — especially newspapers — can, or will want to, learn anything from this.

But I do hope that as the digital realm becomes the increasingly dominant distribution system for news consumers of all ages, media organizations will appreciate that some of us aren’t always going to find mobile devices, as they are available now, an ideal way to get the news, and to share it with others.

This isn’t to retrench into my old print foxhole. I’m not alone in finding it occasionally difficult to read what’s on cell phones, PDAs, Kindles, etc. for the simple reason being that the viewing screens are just too darned small.

While Spokane multimedia journalist Colin Mulvany admits to loving his iPhone, he longs to have a larger “touch tablet” at his disposal, a prospect I find immensely appealing:

“My 47-year-old eyes struggled to read the text. If only my iPhone was 2 or 3 times the size. I would be able the browse with out squinting. A touch enabled tablet, with an unlimited data plan would allow me to view text, multimedia and video in ways the smart phone struggles with today. This is a market segment that is only getting started.  It has the strong potential to disrupt not only newspapers, but magazines as well.”

The implications that such a tablet would have on the future of print publishing, already in a precarious state, would be even more pronounced. More importantly, Mulvany imagines how coming mobile advances, and the devices created around them, might further transform the journalism profession:

“New high-speed 4G cell phone networks are now being rolled out. Soon the pipes for all this future multimedia content will open wide. It will change how journalists tell their stories. For many of today’s journalists, this new paradigm will be the deal breaker. For others, these new opportunities will present unique challenges that will drive the future of digital journalism to new and exciting heights.”

Just get me one of those touch tablets, and I’m on board with this.

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