December 8, 2016 Last Updated 11:32 am

The NYT to unveil enhanced, redesigned Arts section Friday, new digital features and services

The new digital features point to the paper’s lack of enthusiasm towards their own mobile and tablet apps, which usual add features only after they appear online

The New York Times, I believe, has inched its way into the digital media world, often kicking and screaming – though it often likes to say that it is a digital leader. Today, The Gray Lady promoted its design changes for its Arts section on Friday, as well as new digital features.

nyt-arts-ipadAll this good, of course, and I’m quite sure readers will appreciate the changes and additions. But I have to repeat something that has been said here many times, that the NYT has been a hesitant app developer, one that has always taken an overly conservative approach to mobile apps.

The NYT was there with an app when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPad, something the Apple CEO really wanted to make sure could be demoed at the introduction event. But what really was seen was how well the website looked on the iPad, not really its app. Word has been that Jobs was upset with the NYT because its app only offered limited content, and really was not a good alternative to the website. In fact, the app, while adding content over time, never really changed its design and function, simply remaining an app version of what was already available online – little creative energy has been spent on reimagining the NYT for an app environment.

When the NYT has launched new mobile apps, such as NYT Now, the efforts were quickly abandoned when results did not measure up to expectations. The NYT’s patience with apps is not that much greater than Rupert Murdoch’s was with The Daily.

The new digital features listed in the press release below are nice, but could have been introduced in the iPad app years ago. So, what has held back the NYT, and other publishers from being more adventurous with their apps? I think the answer lies in Apple’s 30 percent commission. Publishers have never thought of app platforms as distribution channels like newsstands. If they had, they would not have minded the 30 percent fee, and might thought of it as quite a bargain. Instead, they feared that they were introducing a new gatekeeper… and went off to give their content away for free to Facebook.

Here is the NYT’s Art section announcement:

NEW YORK, NY – December 8, 2016The New York Times will unveil an enhanced Arts report on Friday, December 9. The redesigned daily print report is more visually appealing, offers a cleaner layout, and provides better guidance to readers about what is most meaningful and relevant in the arts. At the same time, the digital report will continue to introduce new features and services to help readers better navigate the world of culture online.

“The Times has no equal when it comes to arts and culture coverage. We have more critics and culture reporters on staff than any other daily publication,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor, The New York Times. “At a time when many competitors are cutting back, we are investing in the quality and breadth of our arts coverage.”

Culture coverage in print consists of Arts (Mondays-Thursdays, Saturdays), Weekend Arts (Fridays) and Arts & Leisure (Sundays). Some notable changes to the print sections include:

  • A streamlined layout that improves the way readers experience individual stories. Additionally, “skybox” refers on the cover page give readers a guide to content inside the section.
  • In addition to regular review coverage, subjects important to The Times and art readers will be covered on themed pages once a week as follows: Tuesdays (Theater), Wednesdays (Dance), Thursdays (Pop Music) and Saturdays (Classical Music).
  • Elements of Watching, the online television and film recommendation guide, will publish in the first section of Weekend Arts.
  • Critic’s Picks, a popular online feature in film and theater reviews, will be incorporated into print.

“I am delighted to introduce our redesigned arts report,” said Danielle Mattoon, culture editor, The New York Times. “Whether you’re reading us in print or online, we’re all living in a digital world. Today’s changes are about helping our readers navigate the chaos of choice they face every day.”

New digital features, meanwhile, will embrace the sounds, sights and physical power of the arts, while also delivering service features, like:

  • A video-driven Instagram feature, “#SpeakingInDance” in which dancers describe the thoughts and feelings informing various dance passages.
  • Immersive 360° videos of performances that bring the reader onto the stage or into an artwork.
  • Personal recommendations from Times critics about what to see, hear or do.
  • Classical music playlists for casual listeners.

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