Most news outlets, including TV news shows and networks, newspapers, news websites, and blogs are targeted at news junkies: they never want to miss a story, and they want to be the first to report it to you.
If you look back on these stories even one week later, the majority of them seem unimportant or redundant in retrospect. And if you stop consuming the firehose for a few days or more, you’re lost — there are very few publications that give a general overview of what has happened, especially when venturing outside of mainstream front-page news and into a subsection, such as technology news.
I want last week’s news, but only what I need to know, and only if it has proven to have relevance beyond the day it was published.
I had an idea in this vein a few weeks ago, but neglected to blog about it. I called my idea permanews. Instead of being delayed arbitrarily, the news would stick around until it genuinely started to become irrelevant.
On the Permanews site, every story becomes one story, wiki style. As the story develops, the article grows and changes. There are revision histories and links to related stories etc, but at any point you should be able to visit the story and get a chronological breakdown of what happened.
Critically – and this is key – stories with pending outcomes are flagged for follow-up. If some MP promises some reform by ‘this time next year’, then 356 days later the algorithm promotes the old story as fresh news so it can be checked and updated.
Stories are promoted as headlines based on importance (activity/upvotes), not because they are current or ‘breaking’. (Presumably though, you could filter the stories any number of ways).
The algorithm would be key here: ‘Importance’ would need to trump ‘popularity’ somehow (if that’s even possible).
In working to more appropriately re-imagine digital news, I believe we must first address some fundamental failings of modern news. Among the ideas that need to be addressed are:
- Headlines should describe, inform, and be powerful. They should be the workhorse of the publication.
- There is no “edition.” All news is global. All news is local. “Global Edition” and “Local Edition,” etc… are non sequiturs. Navigation and filters should be rational and easy to use.
- There is no “most popular” news. There is news and there is opinion and they are mutually exclusive. Popularity of stories is something not contextual to news sites, but to social media sites.
- News is not social media. If it is, it fails to be news.
- Those whose news reporting is of low quality avoid the marketplace and instead concentrate on the mob/opinion arena.
- Quality news is valuable. It must therefore have a cost. Quality news is subscription only. You pay for valuable information. Fluff you get for free.
- Quality news requires quality presentation, free from the ridiculous array of experience-destroying marketing. Payment for the PRODUCT allows for this to happen. Experience-destroying penalties for getting the product for free create a broken system while at the same time destroying the value proposition for payment.
This is interesting to me, as I’ve been working on a WordPress theme for news sites, which I think has some nice innovations. I agree with a lot of what Andy Rutledge says, but it’s pretty clear that fixing news design on the web isn’t going to be as easy as he thinks:
Martin Belam also wrote a post about the four key pieces of audience engagement missing from Andy Rutledge’s news redux (I recommend you read the whole piece).
- Faces matter. The fake redesign doesn’t use any photos except in the lead image and columnist mugshots. If people are going to engage with a page, they need to be guided by faces of people in the stories, not faces of people writing the stories.
- Users want brief summaries. Users read summaries and expect them. Headlines alone won’t suffice.
- Navigation is more than links. It’s about setting the editorial standards of a news site.
- News is social. The redux gets rid of any social tools, saying “popularity has nothing to do with news.” Wrong.