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How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
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May 18, 2011, 10 a.m.

Say hello to Encyclo, our new encyclopedia of the future of news

Today, the Nieman Journalism Lab unveils Encyclo, an encyclopedia of the future of news. We’ve put a lot of work into it, and I hope you’ll check it out.

So what is Encyclo? It’s an attempt to figure out who the most important players and innovators are in the evolution of journalism — and to provide a centralized source for background, context, and the latest news about them. As of this writing, Encyclo is 184 entries on online news sites, newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, technology companies, and more. We’ve got big and small, everything from The New York Times and The Guardian to The Batavian and Alaska Dispatch.

If you’re a regular Lab reader (or if you follow us on Twitter), you know that every day we’re producing reporting, analysis, and commentary on how the world of journalism is changing. Our mission is to learn about those changes, to identify what’s working and what isn’t, and to do our small part in helping that evolution along.

But our main work emphasizes new developments and the latest news. We think there’s great value in a resource that steps back a bit from the daily updates and focuses on background and context. What is it about Voice of San Diego that people find interesting? How has The New York Times been innovating? What model is Politico trying to achieve? Those kinds of questions are why we decided to build Encyclo.

Anatomy of an entry

For each entry, you’ll find the following:

— A narrative entry that explains what this organization does and why they’re important. It details their most interesting experiments and innovations, what’s worked and why. For the Times, for instance, the entry goes into the paper’s paid-content strategies, its growing API, its embrace of blogging, its approach to apps, and its collaboration with technologists. On many entries there’s also video or audio. Be sure to click “Keep Reading” to see the entire entry.

— A collection of key links about the subject, from around the web. This is a hand-curated list — currently with over 1,200 links — of the most important background and analysis for each entry.

Peers, allies, and competitors, which is just what it sounds like: a list of other outlets and companies that are connected to, similar to, or rivals of the entry in question.

— All our recent Lab stories on the subject; we link directly to the five most recent, and you’re one click away from all the rest.

— And, thanks to our curatorial friends at Mediagazer, recent stories from around the web about the entry.

We’ve also built in tools for sharing (just click the “Share” ribbon at the top of each entry). And we’ve created for each entry an embeddable widget that you can put on your own blog posts or stories. (We’ll be doing that on our stories here.) So if you’re writing something about the Financial Times, you can embed our widget and give your readers quick access to background and the latest news on the newspaper.

And that’s just what Encyclo is today. We’ve got big plans, about which you’ll hear more in the coming months.

Help make Encyclo awesome

We want Encyclo to continue to grow and evolve. When there’s big news on journalism innovation, we want that news to be reflected in Encyclo. And along with updating existing entries — which we’ll do a lot of — we’ll also spend a lot of time thinking of new entries and new kinds of entries.

To do that well, we’ll need your help. For us to be aggressive about making entries better, we need input. Is there something we’re missing in an entry? Is there a link that no longer works? Do we focus too much on one element and not enough on another? Is there any obvious entry we’re missing altogether? Let us know! We’ve got a dedicated page for your input, and you’ll find a “Make this entry better” form at the bottom of each entry page. We’d love your input — we plan on thanking our contributors publicly and sincerely.

Thank yous

There are lots of people to thank for this project. First and foremost is the Knight Foundation. Encyclo wouldn’t have happened without their financial support, which has also enabled us to increase our reporting staff. Thanks to Eric Newton and the rest of the staff there for making this possible.

I’d also like to thank Mark Coddington, who most of you know from This Week in Review, which runs every Friday. Mark wrote most of the words that you’ll see on these entries, and he’ll take the lead on updating them over time. Mark’s as good as it gets.

And finally, I’d like to thank my staff here at the Lab, Megan Garber, Justin Ellis, and Andrew Phelps, who have put in a lot of hours getting Encyclo ready (and who’ll be putting in more time in the coming months and years keeping it updated).

I’m hoping I’ll be able to add you to the list of people to thank, for telling people about Encyclo and by helping us make it a resource for everyone involved with the future of news.

POSTED     May 18, 2011, 10 a.m.
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