Thursday, August 13, 2015

'Everything is broken in news' is back in order

It's back in order now.
By my calculation, I owe you seven entries.  Life is hard, but Yesterday's Internet, Today is easy. 
So let's overdo it!

One of the story layout features I like the most is when there are photos or other media interspersed within a story, in a way that adds to it as opposed to being a distraction. If you are wondering why your favorite local news entities don't do this - I'm talking nationwide here - it is because their content management systems are probably not quite set up for simplicity. Blame their parent companies. Blame being tied to print. Blame not having enough people or time. Or just blame good ol' story formats or newsroom culture.
The end result is that the story structure remains in the dark.

The way you consume news has also forced ~content~ creators to rethink their 'Snowfalls' and front pages and ad people to (hopefully) reconsider their terrible desktop ads. Everybody is on their phones! Everyone is coming from social media!

And as news producers look at their internal numbers and see mobile use grow faster than they can adapt, a bit of simplicity has been called into order. I think that, at least editorially speaking, we're finally getting the hang of it.
It's actually easy! Mobile sites are almost like a throwback to the old web days, after all. And those data plans are expensive, so sites have to be light. The good news here is that those terribly heavy news websites are going to be forced out by sheer market forces.
So, for now at least, the road is open with opportunities.

Mobile sites are neat in that they're simple. And if they're not, users simply click away. There's nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link on your phone and having a site not loading, or loading improperly.

Stories and sites that are heavy on phones are discarded. And there's a natural organic drop on clickthoughs the more you make people go through links just to consume what they came to the page to see in the first place.

"Click here if you're on a mobile device" really means "Our Content Management System is a terrible bloated beast and we haven't figured out how to deal with smaller screens yet."
How many times have you seen that message?

Wrap your head around that.

So what now? We make sure that every bit of content we produce is as mobile friendly as we can make it, and we cringe when it isn't. This has forced a shift in priorities, which is more appropriate than ever nowadays as newsrooms across the country shrink to impossible levels.

We still find time to experiment, somehow, and will try new things. I'm amazed how my Idealab tablet is now obsolete and how Google Glass came and went (though I'm still milking it, as all these photos show).  We've also gotten really good at some things - live streams with politicians featuring live and crowdsourced questions from the public is one of my favorite public service events - and have retired others that were not successful. And yes, we make sure that it works on mobile and through social.

We're looking ahead and have a firm grasp of what's currently needed. So we know what to do. The challenge is being able to do it and ~monetize~ it properly and fast.
And it's not going to be just one thing.
And it's not going to be more things.
Most American newsrooms with a print component have a lot less people than they ever did, 
So, then, those fewer things have to be better and different things.
This is not easy.
But it has to happen.
The risk is becoming a thing that was.

I don't expect this turmoil to go away any time soon, and any period of disruption and creative destruction is filled with a lot more tears than hopes. So it's going to stay nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. There's no sugar-coating reality.
So we'll be doing the news, as determined as we've been, though perhaps with a few more wrinkles.
The question is, would you come with us for the ride?

Yesterday's Internet, Today! usually features a single Google Glass photo and a little story, recent links, four somewhat trending stories from the Freeman, a trending video and a cat. Today, however, is a take. Friends don't let friends write takes, so why don't you come over and get it in your inbox?