Just a quick one to note the latest discussion by Jeff Jarvis and others on the reinvention of the news article, one of my pet subjects. As Jeff says,
[…] let’s subtract from the article, deconstructing it into its core assets. Draw that inverted pyramid and its constituent elements and then imagine each as a separate entity in its optimum form.
My sentiments exactly. The ensuing Twitter discussion (Storify) between Jeff, Jay Rosen, Anthony de Rosa and Felix Salmon recapped Jay’s long-time obsession with the need to be able to give readers of a story more context, but that’s just a starting point for reimagining the story wholesale. This too is something various people (including me) have been discussing for a while, but Jeff had an interesting twist on it:
@felixsalmon @jayrosen_nyu @AntDeRosa Imagine a news story as a Prezi path among assets, different for everyone: what’s new, nut graf…
— Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) May 26, 2012
Yes. Reinventing the news story is a serious user-experience design problem; how to make it easy to navigate to the stuff you need to know, instead of being presented with the same canned version as everyone else. A Prezi is not a bad analogy. A story about the Deepwater Horizon, let’s say: you may start with a handful of lines telling you the latest in the attempts to cap the well, but from there, instead of the nut graf and bits of context that you either already know or are far too sparse to help you, you can branch out into any direction you want to learn more about oil rigs, regulation, various oil companies’ safety records, the environment, and so on. (This also turns it into a serious journalistic workflow problem, but more on that another time.)
But it does one have corollary, of course: you can’t run a pageviews-based business model if you’re packaging all this information into a single navigable entity. A typical news website wants each of those steps of exploration you make to be a click away, and then another click, and then another; even those that make their money off subscriptions haven’t broken free of the page mentality. That, I think, is one of the main reasons we have been talking about this for so long and so few of us are doing very much about it. But it’s terrible UX, because it breaks up your learning experience into pieces, making it harder for you to track where you came from and what you’ve learned.
The Verge is the only place I can think of that has actually (and successfully) implemented something like this. If you haven’t seen them already, their StoryStreams are worth checking out.
(Worth noting: The Verge’s entire CMS was built from the ground up to be innovative, and it’s one of the reasons almost the entire staff of Engadget jumped ship to work there.)