The new, new Hindustan Times
This redesigned newspaper that you hold in your hands has been in the works for at least eight months, or BC, as some people have started referring to events of that vintage (Before Corona, if you must know). Even then, the idea was not so much to redesign the newspaper, but to use the redesign to effect a change in the newsroom’s approach to content across platforms (print and digital). For readers (and listeners and viewers), that means a few things. One, this change will be dynamic and ongoing.
What you see today in the newspaper and the website is, to use a cliche, just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next few months (and perhaps even beyond that), you will continue to see changes, new features, and new utilities (especially on the website).
All of them began from the exercise we kicked off in January - the first result of which you hold in your hands. Two, this change is more than skin deep. It will be reflected in how we treat stories and themes across print and digital. It will affect the choice of stories. And it will be showcased in how we display our work.
This is best not spoken of, but experienced over time. Three, even as we have embarked on these changes, we have retained all that is good - the constancy, the reliability, the credibility, the respectability, the authoritativeness, and, above all, the rich legacy of Hindustan Times, which was founded in 1924.
The new masthead is a direct result and also a manifestation of this- as is our new tagline, FirstVoice, Last Word (but more on this in a bit).
The design of the paper itself has been driven by the most important drivers of how all of us have begun to interact with any content, including news, over the past decade (but more so in the past five years). Two words best encapsulate this approach - share and save.
Everyone is starved for time (and also low on attention), so the immediate tendency when we come across something that requires more than a few minutes (sometimes more than a few seconds) is to save it. And often, when we encounter something we like, we like to share it, preferably through social networks.
The print media does not encourage or facilitate sharing and saving. The design of the new HT seeks to address that inadequacy by using QR codes for most important articles (scanning them on a mobile phone will take readers to a web version of the article; a larger version; or a video, podcast, or interactive related to it) and by visualising important articles differently and through the filter of visual social media platforms.
The social media cards that you will see across the print edition of the new HT are also influenced by this, as is the packaging of important must-reads as readily Instagrammable stories.
This is also an area on which the HT newsroom will continue to work in the months to come millennial reader. Bookended by ‘aides and multimedia stories from ) the Einstein riddle and news-youen mental health. It’s *the* paper to with one purpose - deepening audience engagement.
The coronavirus disease hit India in early March. The lock-down imposed to slow its spread (in late March) disrupted most activities, including the circulation of newspapers. At least some readers whose newspaper-reading moved online in this period may not return to the print paper.
While the objectives of the HT redesign, when we started in January, did not visualise this short-term eventuality (of newspaper vendors not being allowed in some neighbourhoods on account of the pandemic, or, in a more extreme manifestation, of people
entertaining baseless fears about the newspaper carrying the infection), it did recognise that ultimately, many readers would do their newspaper-reading online. The redesigned print paper was always going to be a tasting menu of sorts for the website www.hindustantimes. corn
Now, it will be even more so - doing more than just its traditional role in the continuum of news that most readers dip into at various times of the day. At the same time, the clean design, with a clear hierarchy of headlines, and smart navigational nudges, is aimed at making the paper itself easy to read, or browse. For we must not forget that, even in this connected world, the daily newspaper serves as a record of history in a manner that no other medium or platform does.
Now for the tagline. Traditionally, websites (even websites of newspapers) correspond to speed and print to credibility and authoritativeness. HT’s redesign exercise seeks to combine and balance the two -providing readers with news, information and knowledge fast (and sometimes, first), but while ensuring that this is done without compromising on clarity, credibility, depth and perspective Being both the first voice and the last word has required the redefinition of roles and processes within the larger HT newsroom and a change in how we work.
We’d like to be the first voice, but we definitely want to be the last word.