How to fix the wrong problem with online newspapers

by Carl Natale on October 27, 2011



Is Scroll trying to solve a problem that no one wants fixed?

Scroll is an app that lets non-coders make webpages look like what they would design for a print page. Never mind that doesn’t always work from the users’ point of view.

Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab is right that newspaper web pages are bland and templatized. She seems to argue that newspaper web pages are in the state they are in because not enough people know HTML. And Scroll allows print centric designers to build web pages without knowing that HTML.

Here is a video showing how a page is made:

Scroll MKR Demo from Cody Brown on Vimeo.

But she misses the real problem. Newspaper websites depend on templates and content stored in databases because that’s what is efficient. In other words, the automatic nature of content management systems (CMS) allows stories to appear on the web almost automatically. Paying for the time to design these pages is not affordable in online business models.

Yes it would be wonderful if newspaper and magazine websites are designed like print editions. But that comes at a cost that makes it hard for those editions to survive.

It looks like a good tool. And it can help everyone make more interesting web pages. But it’s not going to migrate the print-ethos to online. Which I’m not sure is a problem that readers want solved. They’re looking for more useful and engaging content. Web pages that look like magazine pages isn’t going to make them fall back in love-hate relationships with newspapers.

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