We’ve talked at length about how as the old media has transitioned to become the new media, news outlets have sought new mediums that help them stay relevant. This is particularly true of the New York Times, which has diversified its online content to include extensive multimedia coverage. NYTimes.com has grown to include blogs on everything from photography to war to parenting. The site draws on multimedia content (mostly photographic essays) and on substantial video to support the reporting that goes in the print edition and online.
This additional content has proved its value in the current information overload about the healthcare bill. The bill’s size and scope has been well covered, but the details – of which there are many – have proved difficult for the American public to digest. This graphic, which appeared on NYTimes.com today, breaks down the cost and effects of healthcare in a way that gives viewers a sense of the economic impact of the bill. A few points are worth highlighting about what this type of graphic brings to the table:
The difference in user-friendliness between the “Where the Money Will Come From” image and the “Where the Money Will Go” image is quite drastic. With the former graph carved into so many pieces, getting a sense of how each source of funding is seriously impacted is difficult, particularly without accompanying text to give further detail. The latter graph, which lays out just four places the bill will put money (Increased federal spending on Medicaid and CHIP, Premium and cost-sharing subsidies, Small employer tax credits, and Other) is more aesthetically comprehensible. This difference offers a lesson about incorporating visual graphics into new media sites: simplicity seems to better serve new media’s audience, which has a stereotypically short attention span.
The text that accompanies the graphic offers evidence of the value of a major news organization like the New York Times moving online. The Times has built its reputation on its ability to do thorough reporting with high-level sources and then break down complex issues in a way that is appealing to readers. In fact, it has been doing supplemental graphics like this one in its print edition for years. As a paper of record, the Times has made an effort to cover an extraordinary breadth of topics, both in print and online. Obviously, the space limitations of a print paper preclude it from using graphics to support coverage of most issues in the paper. The virtual limitless of the online space, however, allows for more of this type of graphical analysis. As baby boomers become a smaller portion of the overall media market, younger generations trained to have strong preference for visual graphics and interface – probably because we grew up on iPods and cell phones and computer games – will absorb hard news through these alternative mediums, if news organizations can design them with an eye towards the new market’s quicker pace.