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.
See also: This is Why Your Newspaper is Dying