Phillip Smith

Help define the Knight-Mozilla innovation challenges: Let's talk about delivering news.

Starting points for this post:

  • MoJo needs your help to narrow down more than twenty ideas to just three.
  • If you're joining late, you should probably start here and then go here.
  • Today we explore challenges that would innovate on the delivery of news.
  • We want your help: How would you prioritize these? What would you add? What would you want to work on?

Each of the ideas falls roughly into one of six categories of news production:

The list below tries to distill those ideas into their essence. Please keep in mind that these are rough drafts that outline just the kernel of the idea; the selected ideas will be developed into comprehensive challenge questions.

Okay, let's jump into the question of "Delivering news."

Delivering news

  • From news applications, to Web applications: As journalists learn to program, and as "computer-assisted reporting" becomes known as just reporting, it begs the question: what will today's "news application developers" be freed to develop in just a few short years? More than searchable databases and explorable maps, the current direction of the open Web is enabling new kinds of experiences -- experiences that break out of the frame, are location aware, and can store data off-line. Laptops are smaller, mobile devices more powerful, and the Web is still (contrary to popular belief) frequently at the center of people's computing experiences. Given these factors, what will tomorrow's news applications look like?

  • Adaptable experiences: From the New York Times experimental "Chrome Web App" to Zeit Online's focus on delivering a tablet-optimized news experience, news organizations are starting to think about delivering adaptable news experiences. As these experiments explore how to "re-flow" news for different devices and form factors, the news reading landscape continues to change -- new devices are announced almost weekly, while unusual suspects try to deliver the Web on a variety of existing hardware (think Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360). What new tools can help news organizations to keep up, while also pushing the boundaries of what's possible?

  • Cross-platform delivery It's clear that Apple has not vanquished Windows on mobile devices, Android will not unseat iOS, and the Blackberry operating system is not going away any time soon (in fact, there are three different versions in wide use currently, the older OS 5, the newer OS 6, and their "Tablet OS"). Beyond those market-leading platforms, there are more still that power mobile experiences, like Web OS, Symbian, and so on. Add to that the use of alternative browsers like Opera Mini and Firefox for mobile, and it presents a challenging landscape for mobile-optimized news delivery. This challenge is multiplied when you think about delivering news content beyond simple text, for example: video & audio reports, photo essays, primary-source documents, interactive features, and so on. As HTML5 and JavaScript support appear on these new devices, what opportunities does that open up for cross-platform news delivery?

  • The semantic Web: More than 500 newspapers in the US have implemented the hNews standard, while others are using RDF or microdata to add machine-readable, semantic, markup to news stories. On top of semantic data, new experiences and products can be built. Take for example the BBC's use of RDF to power their World Cup coverage, or the AP's use of hNews for their News Registry product. However, it's likely that these examples just scratch the surface of what's possible in an open Web that is rich with machine-readable news -- even more so if the number of news organizations using it grows from 500 to 5000. What other news delivery innovations does a semantic Web make possible for news organizations? What does it enable for news users?

What grabs you from the list above, based on your experiences? How would you prioritize these? What ideas would you add to the "Delivering news" category? Which challenge would you want to solve?

Feel free to comment here, or on the MoJo community mailing list (or via whatever medium suits your fancy).

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Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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