January 6, 2014 Last Updated 6:35 am

NYTimes.com to roll out website redesign Wednesday; Apple denies providing the NSA with back door to iOS devices

Catching up with media news:

The holidays have concluded and now it is time to catch up on some of the news that broke during the past two weeks… well, that should do it.

It was, to be honest, a news-free time period. TNM technically stayed open but no new posts appeared over the past week as other activities seemed more important than posting meaningless tidbits.

But that doesn’t mean nothing occurred. Here is a brief round-up:

The New York Times said late last week that it would roll out its newly redesigned website on January 8, this Wednesday.

nytlogo379x64“With this redesign, not only are we refreshing the look and feel of our public-facing site, but we have also laid down the foundation that gives us the ability to regularly iterate and enhance the user experience on NYTimes.com,” Denise Warren, executive vice president, Digital Products and Services, said. “We plan to continue making improvements, including introducing personalized navigation options that will allow users to customize their NYTimes.com experience to better suit their interests.”

Changes the NYT pointed to included:

  • A cleaner, more engaging look
  • Responsive designs optimized for desktops and tablets
  • Richer integration of photography, video and interactive story elements
  • Faster loading pages
  • More efficient navigation and improved ability to scan and discover content
  • Persistent ability to share and comment
  • Improved comments with ability to read articles and comments side-by-side
  • New messaging system to keep the user better informed
  • Larger and more impactful photography and video
  • Improved expression of brand through font and typography

Apple, in a rare public statement, denied that it had been working with the National Security Agency to provide the spy center with a backdoor entrance to its user’s devices. Documents released last week show that the NSA has had access to the data of iPhone users including text messages, photos, along with voice and live calls.

“Apple has never worked with the NSA to create a back door in any of our products, including iPhone,” Apple said in a statement. “Additionally, we have been unaware of this alleged NSA program targeting our products. We care deeply about our customers’ privacy and security.”

The NSA has been using a program called DropoutJeep to access information on iOS devices.

In December Reuters revealed that the NSA had paid the computer security firm RSA $10 million to set the NSA formula as the default method for number generation in BSafe software.

Late last week Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked in a letter to the NSA whether the agency was spying on members of Congress.

“I am writing today to ask you one very simple question,” Sen Sanders wrote to General Keith Alexander, Director, National Security Agency. “Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?”

The NSA responded with a non-denial denial this weekend:

“NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons.”

In other words, “Yep, you betcha.”

The Washington Post may be losing Ezra Klein, the NYT reported last week. The journalist behind Wonkblog is said to want to launch “a new website dedicated to explanatory journalism on a wide range of topics beyond political policy.”

To launch the website Klein asked for what was described as an eight figure investment from the Post. The Post’s publisher, Katharine Weymouth, and the paper’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, were said to have declined.

For me, the decision not to invest that much is not surprising. I’m more surprised that Weymouth is still involved with the paper following the purchase of the Post by Bezos.

But I won’t be surprised if Klein finds his money. Few new investments are going to old media ventures, leaving a lot of money for New Media start-ups.

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