Published on: October 2, 2018by Michael Sansolo
We talk a lot in this space about how there may be no larger challenge for traditional businesses these days than finding a way to enhance the consumer experience so one can overcome the incursions and advantages of Internet businesses.
In years to come no doubt we’ll hear and see non-stop attempts by retailers to do just that - to make the shopping trip extra special in every way. And for that reason we need to pay attention to other industries that find a way to surmount similar challenges especially when those attempts break the bonds of tradition in resounding ways.
And that is reason alone to start following the New York Times on line and beyond. The newspaper long has been derided as the Great Grey Lady for it’s seemingly dated appearance and reluctance to embrace innovations like color photos, eye-popping weather charts and, of course, comic strips.
But there’s no way to view the Times that way if you take a look at the newspaper’s website. Today articles are frequently accompanied by video commentary from reporters and at times - such as when covering the tragic bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy - dramatic use of drone photography brings a story to life like never before. A few years back the Times gave paper subscribers (I am one of them) an easy-to-assemble virtual reality viewer that could turn my cellphone into an immersive experience to accompany articles.
But that paled compared to what the Times did a week ago Sunday. That weekend’s magazine came with a stunningly wonderful and unexpected experience - sound. The entire magazine was a trip to varied locales around the globe and by pairing the articles with a special app, the reader was able to hear the story and not just read it.
For instance, one of the audio stories was done at a live volcano so I could hear the sound of lava rushing down a hill. (Strangely enough, it sounds like glasses clinking on a tray.) Other destinations included a desert in Chile, an animal preserve in Africa and a busy street in New York City. Each audio story was accompanied by excellent photography in the paper itself.
It was simply a “wow” experience that made a journalistic legend look as modern and compelling as any type of news experience I’ve ever witnessed on television or on-line website.
Now, certainly some of you will dismiss this for purely political reasons, which I’d argue is a mistake. Instead, look at the Times as a model for the new form of business competition. The newspaper is arguably still at the top of its field, yet is fighting an uphill battle against consumers now switching to getting news from traditional electronic media or new forms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. By taking risks and trying something so incredibly out of the box the Times no doubt delighted many older readers like me who were wowed by the experience.
And just maybe it attracted some new consumers who for the first time might be seeing a reason to turn to something seemingly as obsolete as a newspaper for a new way to see the world.
If nothing else, it reminds us how technology will continue to alter the consumer experience and raise expectations of newspaper readers and even supermarket shoppers.
That sounds like breaking news.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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