By Harry McCracken | 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:
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?