Case Study: Semafor vs. New York Times

<2023-03-15 Wed>

I noticed today how the news outlet Semafor's website is better than the New York Times website in every measurable way. This is notable because Semafor was founded less than one year ago while NYT is 100+ years old. It is also well-known that NYT pours a lot of engineering into their website. For example, it was an engineer working for NYT that developed the Svelte JavaScript framework.

As an engineer myself, I find it informative to analyze and compare products on the market sometimes. I'm not here to argue that Semafor is better than NYT as a publication or as a company. I don't claim to have a well-informed opinion on either of these topics. I am, however, observing some evidence that suggests Semafor is better than NYT.

1. vs.

  1. Semafor: has some international clocks
    • No JavaScript, just CSS animations.
    • These are there for the same reason why university business schools have digital stock tickers. It's not because business majors urgently need stock market information, it's just for potential undergrads and their parents can be impressed by it while on the tour. I argue that digital stock tickers would have been cool back in the 80s or 90s, but now they're tacky. These clocks are tasteful and timeless.
    • NYT shows you the weather and a stock ticker. Having the weather is a positive, but I think the stock ticker is lame.
  2. Rotating globe gif in the top left
    • Again, this is just for the "wank factor" but I like it. A simple Gif with no JS.
  3. I love the old newspaper background color. I think plain white is out of style (see: this website.)
  4. NYT is highly busy visually.
    • Looks "spammy" or disorganized compared to Semafor.
  5. Semafor doesn't have paywalls, yet is far less aggressive with advertising.
    • Only one ad on the entire Semafor front page vs. several on NYT.
    • Free vs. 52$/year seems like a big deal.
  6. Semafor loads noticeably faster than NYT
    • NYT loads way more junk if you scroll down while Semafor doesn't.
    • The data, collected with Chrome dev tools:
| -                | Semafor | NYT     |
| requests         | 81      | 351     |
| transferred      | 1.9 MB  | 5.0 MB  |
| resources        | 3.7 MB  | 30.6 MB |
| Finish           | 33.31 s | 16.78 s |
| DOMContentLoaded | 399 ms  | 2.45 s  |
| Load             | 1.22 s  | 6.18 s  |

Keywords: design

Modified: 2023-09-30 20:15:15 EDT

Emacs 29.1.50 (Org mode 9.6.1)