Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 20, 2009, 11:15 p.m.

Papers: more creativity please

As many people probably know by now, Google came out with another of its Google Labs features on Monday: a Google News timeline view, which gives users the ability to see and scroll through headlines, photos and news excerpts by day/week/month/year. The sources of this data can also be customized to include not just traditional news sources but also Wikipedia, sports scores, blogs, etc. It’s a fascinating way of interpreting the news — not something that is likely going to replace a regular old Google News headline view, but an additional way of looking at things.

One question kept nagging at me as I was looking at this latest Google effort at delivering the news, and that was: Why couldn’t a news organization have done this? (I’m not the only one to wonder this). Why not a newspaper, or even a collective like Associated Press (which seems to prefer threats to creativity)? Isn’t delivering the news in creative and interesting ways that appeal to readers what we are supposed to be doing? Apparently not. Even the most progressive of newspaper sites still looks very much like a traditional newspaper — not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But is it too much to ask for a little variety? Why not have some alternative display possibilities available? Who knows, it might even con some people into reading more.

There are newspapers that get the creativity thing — and not only get it, but encourage it. The New York Times, for example, has a celebrated (and rightly so) group of journalist/geeks including Aron Pilhofer (@pilhofer on Twitter), Josh Harris (@harrisj), Derek Gottfrid (@derekg) and others who have put together some fantastic news feature/applications that combine data visualization and great usability. These run the gamut from interactive timelines for stories to displays that illustrate how many times particular words were used in speeches, and many more in between (including a different way to browse the paper called the Skimmer). They are also — along with The Guardian — well out in front of every other newspaper when it comes to providing access to their articles and other data through open APIs.

Unfortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule (the Washington Post had an interesting open-source effort called Post Remix many years ago — when the ultra-creative Adrian Holovaty worked there — but none of the ideas went anywhere). If newspapers want to alter the balance of power with Google, which they routinely complain is stealing their livelihood, then they should put a little brain power to work and get more creative, instead of trying desperately to think of new ways to sell the same package of news everyone else has.

POSTED     April 20, 2009, 11:15 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
Tamedia’s 12-App collects the 12 best stories each day from the company’s 20-plus publications.
What does it take to be a “full-service” digital journalism organization? Ask Discourse Media
“We’ve gone down lots of experimental rabbit holes.”
Spain’s Eldiario.es has 18,000 paying members, and its eye on the next several million
“We have a potential of six million readers. You may not convince all six million people to be your socios, but if you learn more about their interests, you can get closer.”
What to read next
0
tweets
The Guardian’s first VR project makes viewers experience the horrors of solitary confinement
“It’s a story which is all about space and the environment you’re in. Even though this is a small space, the story is all about that space.”
0TipOff, an email newsletter, is trying to explain sports to non-fans
Launched last fall by a team of investors and writers, TipOff has attracted 50,000 subscribers.
0Good news, publishers: People will read your long stories on their phones (for two minutes, anyway)
People will read longer content on their smartphones, a new Pew report finds.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Mashable
GateHouse Media
NPR
The Batavian
Creative Commons
Storify
PBS
California Watch
Ann Arbor News
Newsweek
Facebook
ABC News