Monday, August 8, 2011

Beyond related articles to related content

This week’s inspirational speakers were ShaznaNessa and Mohamed Nanabhay – the speakers provided insights around technology in the newsroom, how to achieve buy-in from stakeholders and how technology is changing news production.

The speakers addressed the importance of individuals working together. Across the newsroom, collaboration & communication is key to the success of my idea – an interactive content driven experience mapping to key words rather than a few related articles at the bottom of an article. My aim is to show any multi-faceted story unfolding. Newsroom teams must to work alongside one another, adopting a standard structure and taxonomy for success.

Who is this for?

What does this mean for newsroom teams?
Whether the content of the story is an article, an interview, a video, a podcast or a quote, it needs to be tagged before it’s uploaded to a searchable system.
“Tagged with what?” I hear you asking (good question!). As a minimum I’d suggest:

  • the topic(s)
  • secondary topics
  • a date and time stamp
  • the names of key people involved and
  • a location – a country or a city

Success does not lie in an abundance of technical skills, but in standards: a common structure and language.

Imagine: if tagging were standardized the pooling and display of related materials would become a simple task. With a simple key word search the relevant content would bubble up!

I’ve discussed how newsroom teams can tag their content and search for it. But what about citizen journalism? Why should this system need to stop with content produced journalists and newsrooms? Well, it doesn’t have to. What if whenever a word or phrase is searched, social media sites like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr were included (Greplin allows an individual to search across their social media user name) (Thanks Lina P), encapsulating the idea that you need to seek out content rather than wait for it to come to you.

Inner voice: Isn’t this what Google does?!
Well, the searchability of content is just the first part.

I began to think further about the primary audience and I asked –“ How does this idea benefit the consumers of news”?

In order to better understand these users I talked with Helen M who shared her insights around what these users look for.

Choice is important for users, if they are a Guardian reader, they perhaps are not overly interested in the related story in The Sun

There are already things out there: Flipboard and Taptu go part of the way in delivering a tailored view of news. I see my idea merging and building on these and Greplin.

Over three weeks the idea has evolved, as it stands related content can show a story emerging by pulling in content from other sources, provide readers with choice around their view, diversity and popularity.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tell me more…

The first week of #MozNewsLab kicked off with great lectures from Aza Raskin, Burt Herman and Amanda Cox.

For the learning lab phase of the Mozilla Journalism challenge, we’ve been encouraged to select a new idea - the weekly lectures will provide us with inspiration for developing and progressing our ideas.

> My challenge: To improve the display of related articles.

[I’m sure I’ll refine my challenge as I go - but for now, you get the gist of it!]

> Why is this challenge important?
Breaking news brings daily updates. Take the recent News of the World scandal, the story has grown and unfolded with new insights. The leading articles on BBC, Guardian and New York Times all have related articles and yet, it’s difficult to gain an overarching view of how the story has developed.

Moreover, news articles rarely stand-alone and can be linked to others by:

  • Mapping the history/time line of a story,
  • The individuals involved,
  • Author,
  • Geography, and
  • Topic etc.

Related links generally sit at the bottom of the page added like an afterthought. Occasionally the BBC highlights relevant content (at the side of the page), categorises the related links and links to other news sites.

As we heard from Amanda Cox, infographics are about making things relevant. The Guardian complied a moving infographic of “How Twitter tracked the News of the World scandal" - This idea inspired me! What if articles came with a visual element depicting the story?

> What difference will improving related articles make?
I see a challenge to enrich the user experience, engage users and promote relevant articles (a bit like Joomla). Let’s get one thing straight, I do not mean to create a “filter bubble” to use the phrase coined by Eli Pariser - but to show readers how articles do connect with one another without any personalisation based on previous browsing history. My aim is to move related articles to a rich information experience that readers are free to explore.

> Inspiration
As Aza said, “it’s our job to change the way people think”, he encouraged us to ‘develop tangible ideas and turn these into new ideas’. Burt Herman said “build it and start iterating” and Aza encouraged us ‘to take the initial idea and get a prototype out by the end of the day’.  I took on what Burt had to say along with Aza’s seven principles of prototyping and got sketching!

I really like no. 5 from Aza, “you are iterating your solution as well as your understanding of the problem”. As I started sketching, I began refining my idea.

Have a look at where my sketching got to

What’s next? 

I’m going to get these ideas out there, see what people have to say and keep iterating!