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Times Skimmer multiplies views of 'NYT' news

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How do I read thee? Let me count the ways.

With the newly launched Times Skimmer application, readers of The New York Times now have seven new ways to view the newspaper's digital content. These are in addition to the NYTimes.com URL; Times Reader, a downloadable application that allows users to read Times content offline as well as online; mobile applications for the Apple iPhone and the latest generation of BlackBerry smart phones; and the Times' mobile site, http://mobile.nytimes.com.

In each view, Times Skimmer displays a limited number of headlines with short story summaries in an easy-to-skim format. Four of the seven views present stories in a grid. One, called Lines, shows the headline, byline and the first few words of each story on a different line. Another, called Flow, provides a continuous view of headlines in blue followed by the first few words of the story in black. The least traditional view, called Fridge, displays individual words as if they were refrigerator magnets.

“We want readers to have choices and to have fun with different layouts of the news,” said Marc Frons, chief technology officer-digital operations at the New York Times Co. “This is an evolving platform that we will continue to innovate and experiment with. We will probably add more views as the application evolves.” Experimentation is warranted, he added, because “no one has yet cracked the code on replicating the print experience within a browser.”

Trends in computers, such as the recent popularity of mini computers and netbooks, require “thinking through displaying content on new platforms and screen sizes,” Frons said.

Built on HTML, Times Skimmer works within any Internet browser. In contrast, Times Reader “was designed for portability and is built as a downloadable application,” Frons said. He added: “We are now looking at how we can add portability” to Times Skimmer.

In the future, Times Skimmer might integrate blog content or third-party content.

The platform incorporates a new advertising unit within the grid design. “It is a new custom position that is integrated into the design to move seamlessly with the layout and navigation,” Frons said. Research in Motion's BlackBerry is the exclusive launch sponsor.

Two weeks ago, the Times launched its mobile application specifically for BlackBerry devices, including the BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry 8900-Curve 2 and the BlackBerry Bold. It enables users to store content for offline reading, share articles via e-mail or SMS text and customize the interface.

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