Assuming There’s a New York Times in 2040, I Hope It’s Not This One

By  |  Monday, May 11, 2009 at 3:44 am

I just went to NYTimes.com, as I do multiple times a day. A split-second after I arrived at the homepage, it was covered up with a full-page ad overlay. That was irritating, but I’m willing to tolerate some annoyance in return for excellent free content.

I found this particular full-page ad overlay downright disillusioning, though. Here it is:

New York Times 2040

Yup–it’s a fake New York Times homepage from 2040, with jokey futuristic news stories and a redesign which consists of the Times dumping its logo, tagline, and typography in favor of a look which I’m guessing won’t end up resembling whatever is hip when 2040 does roll around. It’s a component of Intel’s big new ad campaign with the slogan “Sponsors of Tomorrow.” (Weirdly, when I go to the Intel site it links to on my Mac, I get a page that’s empty except for a splotch of tan–but maybe it works better on your Intel-based computer than on mine.)

As a journalist, I stress out when media brands lease out their good names to advertisers to make a buck, and the notion of the Times permitting a fanciful New York Times to be shown in an ad on its own site is inherently unsettling. (It’s unfortunately reminiscent of the Los Angeles Times’ appalling decision to allow a fake article to appear on its front page.) No brand in journalism has had standards higher than those of the Times, so this sort of tomfoolery is particularly out of character.

But here’s what’s really dismal about the ad: The notion seems to be that during the next thirty-one years, the main thing that the Times will accomplish is to dump the media world’s most instantly-recognizable look and feel. With reasonable people questioning the the viability of big media in general and the Times in particular, it’s an odd time to allow an advertiser to define the future of the Times–even in jest–and to say that it’ll consist of a goofy redesign.

Am I the only admirer of the New York Times who both hopes and believes that A) it’ll be around in 31 years, but its primary form will be something that hasn’t been invented as of 2009, and which won’t bear much resemblance to today’s Web sites; and B) the Times’ venerable logo, typefaces, and promise of “All the News That’s Fit to Print” will still be with us?

 
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17 Comments For This Post

  1. dude Says:

    You're complaining about the design itself? First of all, it's just an advertisement crossed with a gag. Second, it looks great!

    Oh, sorry… I meant to say: YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Yeah, I know it’s a gag, and no, I’m not saying I don’t like the ad because the design of the 2040 Times is cheesy. And maybe being a journalist makes me super-sensitive here. But however much Intel paid the Times, and however good the gag is, it ain’t worth it.

    –Harry

  3. John Fitzpatrick Says:

    The design for the Times in 2040 reminds me of the old Omni magazine. The silvery-grey background and the thin typeface were typical Omni features. (Back to the future, anyone?)

    The bigger problem with this ad is the lack of vision. We need a bold statement of the future, something like the World’s Fair of the nineteen-fifties. Companies provided visions of the future — visions that happened to coincide with their business plan — and gave us a goal. We had diaramas and stages of sleek new cars and homes with robots and videophones.

    Thin letters and talking to dolphins? This is the best Intel can do? I’m selling my stock today!

  4. Al Says:

    Dropping typeface of New York Times is a bad idea, they should definitely stick to it, that’s like the only thing that will make us recognize the newspaper in 31 some years, when everything else will become uniform.

  5. NanoGeek Says:

    @John Fitzpatrick

    It’s not supposed to be serious. It’s just a joke.
    I don’t get what the commotion is about.

  6. Tailfins Says:

    @Harry –

    “And maybe being a journalist makes me super-sensitive here. But however much Intel paid the Times, and however good the gag is, it ain’t worth it.”

    I would think that, as a journalist, you’d be entirely in support of something like this. Or perhaps you mean that, “as a journalist who doesn’t depend on the NY Times for his paycheck,” you don’t feel it’s worth it. At this point, I can’t see how any rational person would slam a news organization for trying new ways to generate revenue. There’s no way someone confuses this ad with the actual NY Times. Far more damaging, I thought, was the WSJ quote that Apple splashed on the NYT home page last year. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v77/Karim/appleLeopard.jpg)

  7. bud Says:

    It is (or could be) a meta joke, sort of making fun of questionable modern redesigns, by making a questionable modern redesign. There have been plenty of redesigns looking exactly like this in the past forty years.

    It is just that the result is so displeasing that people are having a gut reaction at first glance rather than following through with any recursion that may or may not be intended. Because, if there is a “Modern Redesigns suck, are bad ideas, lets make fun of how badly it has been done in the past” intention here, that idea itself, if it is meant to be there, has little to do with the message of the ad itself.

    The redesign ad idea would actually work better for small town newspapers that would seriously do such a redesign ignoring their past, may seriously think that they are making an improvement, but intel has no reason to advertise with them

  8. Harry McCracken Says:

    @tailfins:

    I’m sure there are some journalists at the Times who are OK with the ad based on the economic situation the company finds itself in–but I’m equally sure there are others who are gritting their teeth. (Actually, I’m positive that there are people at the Times who are much, much unhappier about it than I am.) Trying new ways of generating revenue is mandatory today, but it’s not a free pass for every idea that comes along.

    Curious about your WSJ reference, but the Photobucket link isn’t working…

    Thanks,

    –Harry

  9. Dylan Tweney Says:

    Ironically, this happened on the same day that the Times released its Adobe Air-powered Times Reader, a spiffy app for reading Times stories with better formatting than the website allows. I don’t know if this app is the answer to newspapers’ woes, but it does look good, and does a better job of adapting to different screen sizes than any web site: https://timesreader.nytimes.com

  10. Mark "Rizzn" Hopkins Says:

    A few things:
    Every free news content company is, in essence, not in the news business, but in the ad sales business. Their responsibility is to the advertisers and not to the readers (even though their “brand” may be based upon the mythos of journalistic integrity, and thus what allows them to have an audience).

    To that end, the NYT has had much more egregious violations in the past than this (for more, see: http://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1GGLS_enUS316US316&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=nyt+journalistic+integrity).

    Beyond that, though, all advertising and sponsorship is, as you put it, “lending out the brand.” In this case, your example is literally true, but the whole reason marketing/sponsorship/advertising works is because it allows brands with lots of cash but not a lot of notoriety to trade that money for notoriety on the backs of brands where the reverse is true.

  11. nick b. Says:

    Here are nine ways newspapers can survive. http://bit.ly/2Smfr

  12. Jon Says:

    Harry,

    Your first mistake is reading the NY Times. Their coverage is deeply flawed in so many ways.

  13. Sherri Says:

    I seriously doubt the Times will be around in one year let alone 30.

  14. Tom Krepcio Says:

    I consider this to be much, MUCH worse than the ad which write about, and on the same night you call out that ‘other’ Intel ad.

    Actual PRODUCT PLACEMENT in a piece of journalism in the New York Times.

    Unbelievable.

    http://bit.ly/NYT_INTELpp

  15. Harry McCracken Says:

    @rizzn,

    Hey, I know that the Times is far from perfect, and I don’t mean to make the Intel ad sound scandalous (I was more embarrassed than offended). And I know that a media company that can’t provide a worthwhile value proposition to advertisers doesn’t have a business. (It’s not just ones that give away content for free, either–few magazines could survive on reader revenue alone.)

    But I believe with all my heart that media companies must satisfy marketers by finding a group of like-minded community members, and gaining their trust. That’s how you make them receptive to advertising messages. There isn’t a single great media brand that succeeded by doing an end run and thinking of advertisers before readers.

    Or to put it another way: No trust, no readers, no advertisers.

    –Harry

  16. Steve Says:

    Wow, have a sense of humor why don’t you. You seem like you’re really missing the bigger message of the Sponsors of Tomorrow campaign and the underlying tone-in-cheek nature of the advertising. I think this campaign does a fantastic job of changing the conversation with Intel. For years, Intel was seen as a sleepy giant that rested on its successful, commodity products. Now, it provides an emotional connection to consumers, showing them the quirky, human, and ultra-intelligent side of Intel. If you know anything about the company, you know that this “Sponsors of Tomorrow” tagline is really something they live and breathe. It’s time that the geniuses under the surface got some credit. I also like the fact that during this tough economic climate, Intel is providing an optimistic voice the looks towards a brighter future.

  17. Website Redesign New York Says:

    Thanks for sharing this post.

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