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Laughing at the New York Times

Hello Ma:

The New York Times is threatening to shutter its @nytimes.com, most of the paper’s daily newspapers, its website and the apps that power its iPad app. Last year, the paper lost more than $1 billion after the editor-and-publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., had trouble keeping the magazine website viable. And on Monday, he promised “a smooth transition.” The moves are designed to save the Times’s “storied but lukewarm” online operation, which is on the brink of extinction.

Sounds good to us. First off, they’re really need to save their online business. An increasing number of newspapers are switching to charging for digital content, and those ones that resist the idea have already burned themselves.

And it’s a lot cheaper for the New York Times to own an app and a website than it is to keep ones and twos running. Or rather, it would be cheaper for the New York Times to pay Google a lot more money to publish its Times website in all its forms than it would to lay off the 35,000 freelance journalists that live below its belt.

We hope for better because the model the Times is proposing won’t work in the 21st century. If an app and a website are not the new future of newspapers, they may already be the new cornerstones of modern living.

When we revisit the Times website, there’s some encouraging news: Users can connect directly with writers through Twitter, and the company reportedly has plans to extend the Times website to mobile devices. They can also sign up for alerts and notification systems for the New York Times apps and its Chrome extension. (We like to think of this as Yelp for news.) But on the other hand, it would be kind of weird if a page dedicated to short-form news became a mobile app with no news.

We love the iPad app. We’ve used it in apps since before it became a de facto full-fledged news product, having just spent a year on the software. But it has almost no ambition to be a specific device, and has no reason to do so, beyond convenience (because everyone wants to use it in whatever device they’re comfortable with). We all take it for granted that even if you’re dying to use Google Maps, you can go to the Google News app on your iPhone and still read the news—the chances are you’ve already had Google News on a tablet or phone, with no need to switch back to your desktop or laptop.

We also like the differences between reading directly from the desktop and having the New York Times reading directly from the iPad, but it’s a good if limited exception. We like the way the newspaper uses Adobe’s news app, which seems like a better experience than their dedicated mobile app for the iPad.

If this all does work, I’d love to have the Star Trek 9 recap, but neither my family nor my non-family will be able to watch it any time soon. It would also be nice to see events outside the USA get covered as well, since I guess that’s one pretty big media concept we need to get into. (Is there a bad term for this?)

Haven’t clicked on Twitter yet. Are you a fan of the NYT app? Should it be a must-have? Which web app do you use? Let us know in the comments.

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