I was sitting with a co-worker recently who was trying to locate a story in the Mercury News, which just happened to be sitting on the table. The article was about the Homebrew Mobile Phone Club's first meeting and happened to be on the front page of the Business section.

I then asked if they had a website and she scanned the article quickly. It then occurred to me that if URLs were printed in blue in the newspaper, they'd be a lot easier to find. After all, it's a convention most people would recognize. And they're already printing in color anyway.

Just a thought...

Posted by jzawodn at May 10, 2006 02:05 PM

Reader Comments
# Steven Ametjan said:

The problem with newspapers and printing URLs in blue is that blues don't come out as very true when printing in CMYK, and that would only work on pages where they were actually using a color screen. Most of the paper is printed in black because it only requires the production of one screen rather than 4. Even using a spot color, they would have to produce two screens, and spend more money on ink... which would then raise the cost of the paper, and impact their profit margins, though ever so slightly.

on May 10, 2006 02:25 PM
# Aaron Brazell said:

What's a newspaper?

Seriously though, newspaper media is long money hand over fist thanks to the web. Adding one more thing to the total cost of production is probably not something that would be considered.

on May 10, 2006 02:32 PM
# Aaron Brazell said:

long == losing (thanks to my computer freezing up while typing)

on May 10, 2006 02:33 PM
# Dan said:

I would have to say that I agree that there should be an easier way of finding articles in news media, however until the MLA or some other organization that newspapers adhere to in their print (or at least try to right?) it would be biased for me to say that they should or should not.

On the lighter side of things though, isn't it nice to be able to pick up newsprint, feel the ink on your finger tips? Why add things that jump out at you? Let it be, enjoy the paper for what it is.

on May 10, 2006 02:52 PM
# Charles said:

In Japan there is a broadly adopted system of publishing URLs as little graphic bar code images, it's called Semacode. You just point your camera phone at the image and it sends your phone browser to the URL.

on May 10, 2006 02:59 PM
# Aaron said:

I often find myself looking for the search button on a newspaper page. Seriously, my brain wants to scan for what I'm looking for as I would with the "find" in a browser. Making URLs blue is a great idea, except I would want to "click" on them then.

on May 10, 2006 03:04 PM
# Rebort said:

Easier: Print the URLs referenced in the article as footnotes.

on May 10, 2006 04:00 PM
# Dan said:

I'm in agreeance with Rebort, putting them as footnotes to an article would be much tidier and helpful.

on May 10, 2006 04:36 PM
# Brian M said:

Semacode??? It looks just like "Data Matrix" code. And, as the guy who introduced that code to the print industry, and later invented a way to print and read invisible barcodes, it's amazing to me that a clone of that code would finally make it into the cell phone industry under a new name. Especially when there are patent lawsuits regarding its use here in the USA, even though the parent company "dmatrix.com" put that code in the public domain and then closed their doors a few years ago.

Also, does anybody remember the Radio Shack "Scan Cat" that was able to read a code and take people to a URL in their catalog? Radio Shack gave those Scan Cats away after they gave up on selling them, and then they later stopped producing a print catalog...

Hmmm... I like Jeremy's idea much better - just print the URL in blue in a machine-readable font and let the cell phone makers adopt OCR technology that works on blue text... Then the URL is plainly readable to both humans and machines...

on May 10, 2006 06:11 PM
# Bryan M. said:

The first commenter got it right. It's not a color screen, but the color "plate" (offset printing, not screen printing). CMYK text at 10 pt. would be hell to register for most papers that have older presses. The concern with costs is not trivial if you consider that there might be five URLs on a page, but you've got to do an extra plate for the blue, plus the ink on any page that has a URL on it. Can you imagine the *disincentive* that would be for an industry already pinching pennies?

(and the scan cats were actually used in some newspapers - I'm thinking the FW Star-Telegram for a while at the end of articles)

on May 10, 2006 06:23 PM
# Ricky Dhatt said:

Aside from cost, unfortunately blue is the least legible text color. Only 2% of the cones in your eye are blue sensitive.

on May 10, 2006 06:40 PM
# Search Engines Web said:

As an option they could print URLs in BOLD ITALIC...

if they really wanted to be noticed they could also add
[ www.url]

or something similar...

hmmm...but come to think of it you think of it - some papers many NOT REALLY want you to leave them (print advertisers -- you know :-)

on May 10, 2006 08:17 PM
# Andres said:

Completely agree with Aaron, he expressed my two thoughts about what you say:

- If you make them blue, I would feel frustrated because I cannot click them
- BTW Please add a CTRL+F on print media now! :)
When I read large articles, I need to find what I am interested in, and I have the impulse of trying with CTRL+F, anyone else with the same impulse?

on May 11, 2006 08:40 AM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

You can't do CYMK color for body copy, it's too hard to align it. You'd need to do spot color == pricey.

on May 11, 2006 09:19 AM
# steve said:

Back in my newspaper days, spot color only happened on news pages when an advertiser ponied up for a color ad on the same page on which an article appeared. And, the spot color usually has to be the same color - so an advertisement would have to be in blue. During pagination, this is tough to do and stories are mapped out to color pages accordingly when possible. If many stories have URLs, this would be really tough to match up.

And, the Merc usually puts URLs in bold, which is a little better than many papers, which either don't use URLs or just put them in parentheses.

on May 11, 2006 10:21 AM
# Detroit Dinko said:

I'd agree that URLs do need to stand out. In which way, could depend laregely on the printer's cost effectiveness. Blue, bold, parenthesis, URL's at the end of the document.. whatever way is fine. As long as the URL's are easy to get :)

on May 14, 2006 06:36 PM
# Samarth said:

Well, every time I hear of a new idea, I put it through the consumer demand test!! i.e will I pay extra to get a service / product?? or even if it's at the same price, will I be attracted to a feature?

That leads me to the question, what do I look for in a newspaper?

Essentially -
1) News - In general loads of it. National and International.
2) Columns - Objcetive Thinking and not partisan.
3) Features and Reports.
4) Advertisements & Classifieds
5) Cartoons and Specials.

Now, comes the second test.
Will I pay extra for a Newspaper which prints the URL's in blue - NO.
Will I pick up a newspaper (at the same price as others) simply becuase of the URL feature - again NO.

Now, there is a catch to my analysis., i.e who am I?

I represent, a IT Professional whose life is swamped with emails and URL's. Believe me I get 1 every 15 mins! :-)

So what does a newspaper mean to me? (or my kind) -- something you begin your day with. Feel connected with the rest of the world, before you lose yourself to the mad rush.

It's a good idea, but as many before me have suggested, the cost will be too high and the marketing people might just not be able push this engineering wonder through!

But that's just my thoughts!!

on May 17, 2006 02:22 AM
# Larry said:

If you are looking for a place with great printing resouces check out: www.a-plus-printing.com

on May 20, 2006 01:09 PM
# Craig said:

This thread appears to be dead, but I just found it, thanks to a link from Digg to the aviation story. Printing URLs in blue seems like a good idea, but newspapers may worry that highlighting a URL like that might be seen by some readers as a tacit endorsement by the newspaper of that site's content.

on May 22, 2006 05:50 PM
# David Neawedde said:

Designing for online and designing for print are different in many aspects, but it was a great thought! Also, the "blue" link is a bit "cliche" now and less and less use it in their designs.

on May 27, 2006 06:03 PM
# Randy Blue said:

Your title had me laughing my ass off. I am such a geek now that I really do wish that newspapers had blue for the url's. Funny thing is that I now only read the papers online.


on June 10, 2006 04:56 AM
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