Requiem for Emphasis

The New York Times launched a major redesign last month and, as is the way with these things, got a bunch of angry comments from pitchfork-wielding Times readers who wanted to be able to print articles with a single click instead of two. And though public editor Margaret Sullivan claims to have sifted through though thousands of comments, my one little nitpick hasn’t been addressed.

For years the Times has had a hidden feature called “Emphasis,” which would allow readers to click shift twice and then highlight and deeplink to individual sentences and paragraphs. It’s really great for a site like the New York Times to be able to pick out one well-reported detail in a longer piece and direct people’s attention directly there.

I liked it so much I found a WordPress plugin that incorporates the feature and added it to this blog. I am skeptical that anybody has ever used it here, but it’s been an option. (You can try it out by clicking shift twice.)

In any case, Emphasis is gone from the new redesign, and as far as I can tell hasn’t been mentioned since. The technical recap describes a ground-up rewrite, and it probably was just not a priority. I suspect it was never a very popular feature, but I, for one, miss it.

Published by Parker Higgins

I'm the Director of Special Projects at the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and previously led copyright activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I live and work in Brooklyn, New York. more »

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  1. Emphasis is an interesting tool, the problem is that almost nobody besides the NYT used it, and it’s not really something you’d do outside the web either (although it would make sense to be able to do that in long PDF docs for instance). So it’s not much surprising if it wasn’t popular.

    Also, the guy who developed this has been hired by Quartz since (IIRC).

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