When an online presentation called EPIC 2014 made its debut on the Web a couple of years ago amongst its futuristic and jarring predictions was that by that date The New York Times will fold and become a newsletter for the elderly and the elite. It was with some amusement, then, that I received my copy of the NYT at the end of my driveway this week and pulled out...a light-version newsletter of the venerable paper. In standard letter paper format of just eight pages in length, the newsletter is being offered to subscribers who would like to receive a light version of the paper via email in a format suitable for local printing. At fifty cents it's a convenience that people on holiday are likely to appreciate, especially since it includes the daily crossword puzzle, so it's not a bad use of the print format.
Yet one wonders to what degree this kind of aggregation is going to appeal to readers on the go when the same machine that allows them to print out the newsletter also allows them to browse news online and to visit aggregation sites such as Original Signal that highlight the RSS feeds of many of the key Web 2.0 weblogs available online. Now if there were a news service that could allow me to get a print-formatted version of any number of news sources along with treats such as crosswords and such - ah, that would be worth something, to be sure.
One cannot fault the NYT for trying to maintain the value of their brand for beachcombers who don't want to bring electronics along to ponder Will Shortz' puzzles but it highlights the opportunities for a new generation of aggregators to think about how they can create value for audiences on the go who have a world of content from other sources that can entertain them when they're not willing to browse the Web. Welcome to 2014, readers - a few years early.