Phillip Smith

MoJo is on the march: Help rethink how news is presented on the open Web

Starting points for this post:

  • MoJo is on the march: we're trying to narrow more than twenty ideas down to just three.
  • If you're joining late, you should probably start here.
  • At minimum, scan the list of "Reporting news" ideas, and feedback on those ideas.
  • Today we introduce some new ideas that explore how news is presented online.
  • We want your help: How would you prioritize these? What would you add? What would you want to work on?

As I wrote yesterday, we've identified more than twenty reoccurring ideas for possible challenges. Each idea falls roughly into one of six categories of news production:

The list below tries to distill the ideas down to 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 a more comprehensive challenge question.

So, with that said, let's march on with "Presenting news."

Presenting news

  • New story formats: We'll call this one "Real-time news vs. The Explainer." The Web has enabled breaking-news coverage like we have not experienced before. At the same time, real-time coverage eventually becomes a vast sea of information as an event unfolds over days, weeks, months, or years. The format of online news stories, however, has not changed much from its print predecessors. The Web presents a new opportunity for news stories that are both real-time and open-ended. The question is: what should that look like, and how can it be made better?

  • Visualization: Newsrooms around the world are experimenting with information & data visualization to make more information available to news users. Tools like Protovis & Processing.js have started to open these experiments to a wider variety of devices and platforms than was previously possible. But the tools for creating rich, cross-platform, visualizations still require specialized skills to use them effectively. Like Butter attempts to do for Popcorn, how can the interfaces for building visualizations be improved?

  • Semantic Video & Hyper Audio: HTML5 and open video have created an opportunity to start experimenting with new forms of cinema and journalism -- forms that can pull data from across the Web into the story. Projects like Hyper Audio will bring similar experiments to radio. Mozilla has already started this exploration by supporting projects like Web Made Movies, Popcorn & Butter, and Universal Subtitles. What other possibilities does open video & audio hold for online journalism?

  • Interactive features: These last three ideas, when combined, can create new ways of interacting with narratives and stories. From Arcade Fire's inversive HTML5 experience to the HTML5 wonders being developed by the Mozilla community, creative hackers are experimenting with what's possible when these tools are used for entertainment, or for curiosity. But, what's possible when we use these approaches to present news? (And, how can it be made easier for journalists to use?)

  • Information hierarchies & a sense of completion: The Web, by its nature, has neither a beginning or an end. However, we - as humans -- experience both deeply. We enjoy starting new endeavors, and also a sense of completion, be it in our work day, or when reading the newspaper over breakfast. The news experience online presents a never-ending stream of updates, which can lead to people to tuning it out. The front page of a newspaper provides both a snapshot of the news, and a visual guide to what news is most important (to the editors, admittedly), while tools like Rayogram's NEWScan give us new ways to explore this idea online and with a more global view; And the newspaper format itself allows us to look forward to both starting the experience, and being done. How can these two ideas, so successfully embodied in print, be explored online?

What grabs you from the list above, based on your experiences? How would you prioritize these? What ideas would you add to the "Presenting 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).

Next up: Delivering news. Join the march.

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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.