I'm fascinated by the intersection of tech and story. I've been exploring how technology influences the way we tell "Story" for over 20 years. The printing press influenced storytelling, early photography (called "the mirror with a memory" when it first appeared) changed it, film, TV, CD ROMs, web, smartphones are all influencers on storytelling.
The challenge is to see the new tech not as a way to port existing techniques to the new, like laying a legacy newspaper format online, but to explore what is intrinsic to the new tech. How can a short video enhance a text-based story? How do links enrich an article. How about interactivity: articles no longer need be linear but can move between media, timelines, even other articles.
One of the first tools we are introducing on CrowdNews to help journalists explore the ways technology can influence “Story” is our “Newstream®.” Newstreams give our member journalists the freedom to define the life of a story. A Newstream consists of components of information and content that comprise a story, presented over time. We call each component of a Newstream a “Dispatch". A Dispatch can be a text article, a video clip, a map, an audio file, other media, or a combination of all of them. (More about Newstreams)
So here’s an exercise: imagine a story you want to write. Now imagine what might be missing using only the written word, say a story that references a particular sound. Maybe it’s about a musical instrument, or an elephant’s cry, or the different sounds car designers are anticipating putting on the new silent electric cars. Adding an audio file to a written text lets your audience experience that story in a much richer way.
Digital media allows us to hear a part of a story that should be heard rather than read about.
What I’m really excited about is exploring how a journalist could use virtual reality to tell a story. With VR, a journalist could physically guide me around the grassy knoll where Kennedy was shot, take me on an exploration of an Ebola clinic, explain monetary policy, put me on the field of an NFL game.
But that’s a ways off yet. While William Gibson's books aren’t specifically about journalism and storytelling (even though he tells great stories), his works have been a big influence on my vision of technology-influenced storytelling and journalism. In Spook Country Gibson introduced me to locative art.
The first strand of the novel follows Hollis Henry...a freelance journalist. She is hired by advertising mogul Hubertus Bigend to write a story for his nascent magazine Node (described as a European Wired) about the use of locative technology in the art world.
Wikipedia talks about Location-based media:
Location-based media (LBM) delivers multimedia and other content directly to the user of a mobile device dependent upon their location. Location information determined by means such as mobile phone tracking and other emerging Real-time locating system technologies like Wi-Fi or RFID can be used to customize media content presented on the device. – Wikipedia Locative Media
One of my first questions when I began building CrowdNews was simply, “Is news always new?”
I looked at the immediacy of news.
Was the news ticker at the bottom of the FOX News screen more newsworthy than Wolf Blitzer’s 5pm Situation Room on CNN?
Is USA Today, which by default reports yesterday’s news, no longer news? What about news that’s at least a week old, like Newsweek?
And then there is news reporting on a longer scale, like The Atlantic Monthly, or Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, and The Pew Research, State of the News Media 2014.
My answer: news isn’t what happened this 24 hour period, and then this 24 hour period, and then this 24 hour period. No, my answer is that news is content and information that is valuable to the audience.
And that annual report by Pew Research is valuable content and information to me. But so is the score from this afternoon’s football game.
Traditionally, there have been seven factors that are important in determining if an event has consequence, if it is news.
Impact How many people does the event affect and how seriously does it affect them?
Proximity An event will be more important to an audience the closer it is to that audience.
Timeliness The news must be timely to be of use to readers. (Timely certainly is a relative term.)
Prominence Names make news, and big names make big news.
Novelty What, literally, is new?
Conflict In any field, conflict makes news.
Audience Who is the audience? Or better put: who finds value in this content.
These factors have been traditionally been used to determine if an event is news. And that tradition goes back to the Steam Age. In this Digital Age, I think it’s time to take a fresh look at what is news.
I've been thinking about clarity lately. I just discovered Headspace.com, a guided mediation app. It's quite extraordinary. And of course, one of the goals of mindfulness is clarity.
Clarity certainly doesn't exist now in the news ecosystem. While the goal of good journalism is to inform, the competing goal of most legacy media is to sell advertising. And the conflict between bringing information to you, and bringing your eyeballs to advertisers, creates dynamics with very different goals.
Will CrowdNews bring more clarity to the news ecosystem? Maybe. Rather than screaming for your attention as advertisers must do, we'll connect you directly to the journalists you choose and support.
We won't have to scream, because you, the audience, will be in charge of your news. We'll be there to help you find the topics, Newstreams, and journalists that interest you. But we won't have to yell.