Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Facebook page of German daily Die Welt will talk to you like a friend — with gifs, jokes, and facts
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 11, 2014, 3:08 p.m.
Mobile & Apps

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.”

Next year will be my twentieth in digital news. From the start, I had an underlying disposition that digital news consumers — sports or otherwise — wanted their content easily digestible: brief, formatted, convenient.

Five years in, that was the inspiration for the Daily Quickie, my column on ESPN.com. Ten years later, that was the soul of Quickish — a startup built around a quick-hit stream of editor-curated “money quotes” on the biggest news topics.

That was my biggest bet yet that news was reaching a terminal velocity of format — the “atomic unit of content” in the form of, say, a tweet (or, as Quartz’s Zach Seward has put it, a Thing.)

I misjudged — I didn’t think nearly radically enough. The quick-hit stream of Twitter or the Facebook News Feed is giving way to a largely agnostic, mostly opt-in “notification layer” on top of the phone screen.

And yet even that notification layer feels larded in the context of the single-most-interesting media-industry detail from yesterday’s Apple presentation: We are about to enter the era of “glance journalism.”

“Glance” is the name of the feature of the Apple Watch that let Watch-wearers skim through a series of not-quite-notifications. Maybe they are notifications, but only as a subset of a new class of ultra-brief news.

“Atomic unit” was a helpful metaphor, but we’re now talking about the proton/neutron level. Glance journalism makes tweets look like longform, typical news notifications (and even innovative atomized news apps) look like endless scroll, and Seward’s list of essential Things (chart, gif, quote, stat) look unresponsive.

What a wonderfully evocative word: “glance.” Apple’s capital-G appropriation of it — and the primordial display on the keynote screen — is what set my mind spinning. A “glance” is not merely a “swipe” — how logy! The watch’s Glance function involves a psychological and physical flick. Not up and down a fundamentally cohesive stream, as with Twitter, but across entirely distinct news inputs.

That is the user experience that the news industry has a pending opportunity to address — the message delivered must be that clear and concise: I’ll describe it as a “neutron of news,” which — if done right — is enough for that moment.

While the phone screen — at any size — may remain the preeminent platform, the foreshadowing of the potential of the Watch was evident. And that watch screen demands constraints like journalism has rarely dealt with. (The industry has its hands full figuring out what kind of journalism best fits the mobile screen.)

I’m not talking about one-bit communication like Yo (good news, Yo: Apple Watch’s heavy emphasis on one-bit affirms your vision of the value of one-bit; bad news, Yo: Apple Watch makes Yo itself unnecessary). There is room — not much, but enough — to offer more.

The pending challenge for writers, editors, producers, and product teams is how to deliver compelling news in the “glance” format, because — as we know from the past decade — the audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.

The exciting part is that the opportunities and solutions are wide open, even if the platform is no wider than your wrist.

Dan Shanoff is the founder of Quickish, a quick-hit news curation service acquired in 2012 by Gannett, where he now helps develop new content ideas for USA Today Sports Media Group. This piece originally ran in his daily newsletter.

POSTED     Sept. 11, 2014, 3:08 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Mobile & Apps
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 45,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Facebook page of German daily Die Welt will talk to you like a friend — with gifs, jokes, and facts
“The ability to recognize a brand — this is a huge thing right now. We don’t want people to say, ‘I read this on Facebook.'”
Are your Google search results another kind of filter bubble? The answer seems to be: Kind of
Plus: The AP’s new fake news listing, a lack of center-right news outlets, and how to spot a fake viral video.
Brazil’s Nexo Jornal sticks to its founding principles: Explanatory journalism, subscribers, and no ads
“We realized that context and explanation, we should take those things to an almost radical level.”