February 15, 2008

On The New York Times

I’ve decided that I’m not a big fan of New York Times, or of newspapers in general. It’s not that they’re fundamentally wrong or anything, but as a source of daily information, it’s complete and total overload for me.

For instance, on the day after Super Tuesday, I wanted to read a bit about what happened, so I tried subscribing to a two-week trial of the online edition of the New York Times on my Kindle. I quickly found myself inundated by a torrent of information that, while perhaps useful to someone else, was useless to me; reading a sentence about how exhausted Obama and Clinton seemed during their speeches once the day was over, or a completely blasé quote from Hillary about how great it was that the American people came out to vote that day, was a complete waste of my attention. The relatively small size of the page on my Kindle, combined with the relatively large text size I had set it to, meant that there were entire pages in the article that had no useful information for me.

Like I said, though, this doesn’t mean they couldn’t be useful to someone else. Indeed, I’ve often found some NY Times technology articles that people have sent me, or articles that involve something I have a deeply vested interest in, to be genuinely informative. But as a whole, every issue of the NY Times is a vast morass of information that’s largely useless to me, and most of my time spent with it is used up wading through the irrelevance to find nuggets of truly useful information.

Fortunately, I’ve recently found an excellent alternative to the kind of information I want to get out of the New York Times: The Economist. It’s published only once a week, and isn’t nearly as large as a daily issue of the Times, let alone a Sunday issue. Its articles are relatively short, but very concise: the information density here is very high, meaning that almost every sentence provides me with something useful to think about. Using the reader’s attention like the precious resource it is, this magazine does an excellent job of informing someone about what’s happening and, more importantly, why they might want to care about it.

© Atul Varma 2020