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Folha Turns 97, and the Modernity of News Coverage

02/19/2018 - 11h57



Journalists from all over the world already attest that the future is in the digital audience, specifically the mobile one, which accesses news through mobile phones.

This is where it can be verify the fastest growing reader base. Few news sites, however, have been thought out and projected primordially for a mobile audience.

In the most recent editions of the SND (Society News Design), an entity that hands out awards for the best newspaper designs in the world, the award for best mobile experience was given to sites with user friendly navigation, many which have been inspired by well-known user experiences like the Snapchat application, for example.

This highlights the need for the reader to have an easy and enjoyable experience during their navigation.

Thinking about and creating journalism with a priority for mobile consumption and presenting textual content on small screens are enormous challenges. The obligatory transformation - visual, in conception, in mentality - of print journalism into digital has already presented a gigantic task.

On February 1st, with no advance warning and little fanfare, Folha's digital edition changed.

The changes, in additional to visual, were technical. "Letter fonts were created or adjusted for visual optimization on screens as well as legibility, which results in faster page loading, reducing data consumption and improving the user experience", a report accompanying the changes informed.

The new system, which automatically adapts itself to different screen sizes and formats on telephones, computers and tablets, also makes updating easier and faster and speeds up page loading while resulting in less data consumption.

According to Folha, the changes will "optimize newsroom work in a way that will allow journalists to devote more time to investigating, researching and editing".

The changes sparked e-mail traffic for the ombudsman in February. It is normal for visual changes to lead to complaints. They make readers uncomfortable and necessitate changes in habits.

Most of the complaints centered around technical problems which have already been resolved. Having been taken by surprise, readers complained that the newspaper hadn't prepared them for the changes.

Folha also updated the app which provides access to the digital edition of the print newspaper edition this week. I received even more complaints, especially regarding the impossibility of increasing the font size to facilitate reading.

Vinicius Mota, Folha's managing editor, said that "some technical problems are probably unavoidable with such extensive and profound changes that were carried out on Folha's digital platforms, but they are being addressed and fixed as they are identified".

According to Mota, "despite these mishaps, Folha believes it has put up the best digital platform in its history, offering more agility, sobriety, hierarchy and clarity for the quality journalism that it strives to practice. The new project, like none other before it, focuses the copywriters' energies and the readers' attention on what is most important and interesting in the news."

Today, news consumption takes place predominantly during periods of movement and on mobile phones. It was to be expected that Folha would provide the reader with a redesign that transforms - for the better - their digital experience in a more radical way.

This isn't what happened. If the appearance has improved, it's practically nothing better or different from that of local competitors and nothing close to what is offered by foreign ones.

Little was invested in one aspect that is a consensus of the new times: the relevance of related video side-by-side with written information.

Although Folha stated that readers can see photos, videos and infographics amplifying reports on the main pages, I haven't seen anything in these first few days that stands out in video news.

The world's major newspapers have invested in the production of visual narratives (something that Folha has done when dealing with special projects), with a constant and highlighted presence on their sites.

There is no recipe or formula ready made for creating a good news site for mobile devices. In a news environment so dramatically different than that of the past, in which information is consumed rapidly and in a fragmented fashion, there are still many more questions than answers.

Studies have shown that users on mobile devices have well defined objectives. They expect to be able to get what they need right away and on their own terms. Each minute spent re-reading information that they have already received is considered to be time wasted and can lead them to change their focus.

With a smaller screen size and an audience whose attention is extremely disputed, many question what type of news content will prevail. Will people pay attention to long and extensive news coverage on their telephones? Some studies have shown that they will.

A 97-year-old madam celebrating her birthday on Monday (19th), Folha continues to search for the elixir of youthful news coverage.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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