The Hindu is probably one of the most old-fashioned major newspaper in India. While all the others have moved on to the “Yay us! We have full-colour newspapers!” bandwagon, The Hindu staunchly refuses to give anything other than black & white. And with its strong focus on South India events even in the Delhi edition it says a big “FUCK YOU” to all ‘naarth Eendyen’ newspapers like Times of India and Hindustan Times. Without a doubt, it’s the best copy-edited, best written, sane and sober newspaper in India. The effect of all the roofies that the editors at Hindu took seems to be wearing off – they have discovered the Internet! “Oh look, this Facebook thing is ossumz!“
So The Hindu decided to give its website a major upgrade. The old site is still lurking around at thehindu.com – in all its 1990s Internet glory; the new website is at beta.thehindu.com. This redesign has been done by Mario Garcia Jr. Mario Garcia Jr, in case you haven’t heard of him in Hindustan Times, where they brag about getting redesigns done from him on the umpteen number of times it has ‘changed’ over the past few years. Journalism outsourcing professionals in India have been out-Bangalore’d by a Floridan! As someone else puts it, “Future contestants of Mastermind might like to consider “Indian Newspaper Design” for their specialist round. The answer for all 10 questions is Mario Garcia.”
Consider what we have had to deal with so far. A cursory look suggests that the designer of the Hindustan Times website had an Uzi pointed at his head while he was designing the website, with some sub-editor saying “Naach Basanti, naach” in the background while yet another editor shouted “I want like, every, goddamn news article section to be on the front page. It’s so cluttered that the basic idea behind this is “Let’s put a link every 1cm and hope the user clicks something, even if accidentally.” And then HT editors keep wondering on their blogs as to why they aren’t earning revenues through ads. If guys like these stay around a bit longer, journalism will be dead.
Times of India‘s website is a tad better than Hindustan Times. Their delight knew no bounds when ComScore (quite probably made a mistake and) declared that TOI’s site was the most trafficked in the world. Maybe it was the whole subdomain thing which bamboozled ComScore, because I kinda find it hard to believe that with the number of Internet users India has, TOI’s site got more visitors than any other newspaper website in the world. TOI’s site design is a bit better but still somewhat cluttered.
Coming back to The Hindu’s redesign – what I wanted to say was “This is fantastic!”. The design is really clean. Everything is arranged in a proper fashion – heck, they even placed the ads properly rather than jamming them anywhere, anyhow. When you land on the website, you eyes scan easily through the content without getting overwhelmed with information. There are flashing scrolling tickers and animated jumping monkeys to distract you. Also, The Hindu has decided to implement with a ‘web first’ policy – which means that from now on their reporters will publish their stories first on the website, then in print. Most other newspapers keep breaking news to a minimum, opting to publish online only very important breaking news via dispatches from agencies. Hindu‘s idea, if it takes off, could mean a day when the online version of a print newspaper – that too one of the more traditional ones! – is given more importance. Why this makes sense is that fresh, original content being posted on the website first, a lot more people might be interested in reading news there – thus increasing potential for ad revenue. I don’t know about other, but I for instance only check online news sites in case some major event has happened and I want new news updates – or in case I need to link back to a news story. And with an uncluttered interface, chances are that readers will stick around longer and read more of Hindu‘s content.
Douglas Adams, in his essay What Have We Got To Lose, was right on target that the future of media is online. Years after he originally wrote this article, its astonishing to note that most people associated with news media still think the same way, websites are still made with the same thought process like the early days of the Web that DNA has described in the essay. I urge you to read his arguments on why digital media makes sense for everyone – even media house owners once they get it.