For some readers the news is too time-consuming to get through (with the articles being quite lengthy), too boring, too biased (resulting from disillusion with particular outlets), or feature images that are too graphic and upsetting.
The news for the non-news readers, the Icons Times has arrived to help viewers skim the news without reading a single word.
The Icons Times is a digital news site that exhibits news stories as a series of graphic icons – part of a Venezuelan flag with an out-of-place star to signal the death of Hugo Chavez, an AIDS ribbon attached to a pacifier to show strides in curing infantile AIDS, and a breaking Windows icon to represent a recent European Union fine.
The site breaks down news stories into six segments – all, business, entertainment, sports, technology, and world – and provides a short description below each icon. Users can then click on icons that catch their attention to read a short write-up about the newsworthy event. Each write-up is also followed by a link to a more traditional news site for the readers that are interested in learning more.
While the Icons Times doesn’t yet appear to cover the breadth of most news outlets, exhibiting only a few of the top stories each day, it does present a great way to engage those who are currently less likely to read the news, and those who may be more visually-oriented. The initial interface is a great jumping-off point for the casual news reader, and by providing links to ‘fuller’ stories the Icons Times isn’t leaving users hanging.
There is, however, a looming problem with the Icons Times, which can best be exhibited by the icons below (which were used on the site):
These icons, portraying Oscar Pistorius’s shooting of his girlfriend and a series of bicycle bombs in India – respectively, raise some concerns about desensitization. For serious news topics like the detonation of bicycle-borne bombs that resulted in the deaths of over 20 people, portraying the incident with a cartoonish bicycle sporting bombs only ever seen in Looney Tunes comes across as crude and insensitive. While this is surely not the intent, this instance does reveal one of the hurdles faced by the Icons Times in deconstructing complex issues.
Additionally, it may be argued, by providing audiences G-rated images in place of news stories, the public isn’t forced to truly deal with the issues facing the world today.
Detractions aside, the Icons Times does represent a new, interesting way to show the news, and could be the development of a new style of digital reporting. At the very least, hopefully it can help engage those who would otherwise avoid the news.