HOME
          
LATEST STORY
A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 15, 2009, 11:34 a.m.

Microsoft’s vision for a “next-gen newspaper” looks like TweetDeck

The Newspaper Association of America cast a wide net this summer in seeking proposals for generating online revenue. Their request went out to many of the firms we’ve been covering closely but also several tech companies that aren’t exactly in the thick of the news industry, including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.

I thought there was big news in Google’s response, but most of the big-name replies amounted to a glorified catalog of existing services — in other words, lip service. Oracle and IBM discussed content management systems that have been on the market for years. Microsoft’s response was similar, but it also included an intriguing screen shot of an unreleased product it calls the “Next-Generation Newspaper.”

[UPDATE, 3:43 p.m.: Two commenters point out that Microsoft's screenshots depict an existing program called Sobees. I'm checking with Microsoft for some clarity. Wednesday, 7 a.m.: Rainer Kellerhals, a Microsoft spokesman, clarifies that the user interface was developed with Sobees to demonstrate Microsoft's ideas about aggregating and monetizing news and information. He says it "does not show a current or future Microsoft product." I've added some other information below.]

As you can see in the image above (larger version), the concept bears a close resemblance to TweetDeck, the application of choice for power users of Twitter and other social networks. It’s just taking TweetDeck to its logical conclusion, pulling in RSS feeds, photos, and video from news providers and placing all that content alongside your friends’ status updates on Facebook and Twitter. Think of it as a surging river of news spilling over its banks. Microsoft describes the concept this way:

The Next-Generation Newspaper is the user’s information hub, aggregating content from different sources and matching it to the user’s profile, preferences, and context (situation). It is accessible from any device, both online and offline, and helps the user to navigate the content universe through search, links, and recommendations. Content and audiences are monetized through pay-for-content and advertising.

Whether anyone wants all their information in one application is an open question, though it would be unfair to judge Microsoft’s vision based on a screenshot and some promotional text. Rainer Kellerhals, a spokesman for Microsoft, described their next-generation newspaper as a “concept” but said it “currently exists as a slide deck and a high-level reference architecture, with pilot implementations under way at some pilot customers.” Kirsten Roach, an account manager for Microsoft who produced the company’s response to the NAA, told me that an announcement related to the next-generation newspaper could be made at the end of this month.

While these details are emerging from Microsoft’s response to the NAA, it’s hard to see this product doing much for newspapers, next-generation or otherwise. The whole point seems to be drawing content from a broad array of sources and disassociating it from point of origin — the same issues already troubling most newspaper companies. And I found it mildly amusing, though also heartening, that Microsoft’s screenshots include streams from, among other rivals, Google’s YouTube and Yahoo’s Flickr.

What’s clear, particularly in the screenshot below (larger version), is that news providers will share just a small slice of the content that people choose to consume. The particulars of Microsoft’s interface aside, that seems like a realistic vision.

UPDATE, Wednesday, 7 a.m.: In an email, Kellerhals shared some of the ideas that the next-generation newspaper is intended to demonstrate:

Making available (and monetizing) individual content elements (articles, images, videos) which today are aggregated into newspapers, giving the customer more choice over what she/he wants to read, and which source he/she prefers. At the same time, many readers will still be interested in getting a “news overview”, i.e. editorially selected, prioritized and organized content.

Acknowledging that “editorial” and “social” content will co-exist and may complement each other. In traditional newspapers, the “letters to the editor” can only be published the day after or days after the article they refer to, “disconnecting” them from the original article; in online media, readers’ comments become part of a dialogue on the subject discussed in the article, providing more insight and additional perspectives on the subject.

People use computers to quickly find information, but they tend to prefer the print reading experience over the on-screen reading experience. Ideally, future news media will combine the readability and portability of print media with the accessibility of online media.

POSTED     Sept. 15, 2009, 11:34 a.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 mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
The newsonomics of new cutbacks at The New York Times
The Times found success with its first round of paywalls, disappointment with its second. Is it hitting a paid-content ceiling?
With limited time to revamp WNYC’s Schoolbook, John Keefe decided to take his team on the road
The new Schoolbook will have targeted emails, major content partnerships, three languages, and more — and building it took just seven days.
What to read next
751
tweets
Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
677Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps?
A new study looks at how engineers and designers from companies like Storify, Zite, and Google News see their work as similar — and different — from traditional journalism.
596Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
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 ➚
Conde Nast
Publish2
ReadWrite
Las Vegas Sun
Forbes
Center for Investigative Reporting
The Atlantic
INDenverTimes
El Faro
News Corp
Poynter Institute
Gannett