HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Complicating the network: The year in social media research
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 21, 2009, noon

Writing the novel, then the CliffsNotes

On Saturday, Gawker broke a big story: It ran a first-person account by a man named Robert Thomas who said Richard Heene (of balloon-boy fame) had talked about planning a hoax to get media attention and make himself famous. Not long thereafter, the local sheriff said the stunt was, indeed, a hoax.

Gawker got some attention for the fact that it paid Thomas for his story. But setting that aside, I want to applaud a small decision Gawker made in how it told the story.

Thomas’ story is about 2,000 words, and it’s a narrative. It spends a fair amount of time spinning backstory before getting to the juicy stuff. It was compelling reading if you were already fascinated by the balloon-boy tale, but it wasn’t a grabber for someone with a more casual interest.

So at the same moment the big Thomas piece was posted, Gawker also posted a bullet-laden summary of the piece — the CliffsNotes version of their own article.

As I write this, the full story has generated 480,000 pageviews and 189 comments. But the CliffsNotes version has generated another 39,193 pageviews and 83 comments on its own — both well above average for a weekend Gawker post. And I could imagine scenarios where the bullet-point version could do even better the original.

I wrote about this once before, but there’s real value in taking the longer pieces we journalists love to write — and defend — and creating parallel versions that less dedicated readers can more easily take in. We should do it both because it’ll increase our audience and because, if we don’t do it, someone else will. The brilliance of Gawker and its ilk is in creating compact summaries of the longer stories others produce. Here they just turned that power on their own work. I’d love to see the Times or the Post take the same approach to their own big series and long narrative takeouts, where the important news can be buried underneath lots of (lovely) prose.

POSTED     Oct. 21, 2009, noon
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Complicating the network: The year in social media research
Journalist’s Resource sifts through the academic journals so you don’t have to. Here are 12 of the studies about social and digital media they found most interesting in 2014.
News in a remix-focused culture
“We have to stop thinking about how to leverage whatever hot social platform is making headlines and instead spend time understanding how communication is changing.”
Los Angeles is the content future
“Creative content people are frustrated with the industry and creating their content on their own terms. Sound familiar?”
What to read next
500
tweets
Complicating the network: The year in social media research
Journalist’s Resource sifts through the academic journals so you don’t have to. Here are 12 of the studies about social and digital media they found most interesting in 2014.
339Finance media’s hottest club is Ello
Business reporters flocking to the platform won’t radically change journalism, but it’s worth asking why users gather where they do.
305Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
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 ➚
ReadWrite
Zonie Report
The Sunlight Foundation
Medium
New Jersey Newsroom
The Globe and Mail
Demand Media
DNAinfo
Crosscut
TechCrunch
The Orange County Register
Publish2