Just writing a quick post as I head to California to take part in the inaugural meeting for the Moby Dick Project, an idea which has grown out of a blog post by Web-entrepreneur Ben Huh, who asked the question, “Why Are We Still Consuming News Like It’s 1899?”
It’s a good question. Here’s the thesis:
“The limited amount of space on news homepages and their outmoded method of presentation poses big problems for the distribution of news as well as consumption by the public. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery.
“The traditional methods of news-writing, such as the reverse pyramid, the various “editions” of news pose big limitation on how news is reported and consumed. Unfortunately, internet-based changes such as reverse-chronological blogging of news, inability to archive yesterday’s news, poor commenting quality, live-blogging, and others have made news consumption an even more frustrating experience.”
He illustrates a number of ways that comes into play in his own daily consumption – stories where 95% of it wastes his time with unnecessary (for him) background information, a model based on the “front page”, which is a design concept that doesn’t work well for the web, and the nagging problem that a single ‘home page’ doesn’t apply well for 6 billion users out there.
So what’s our goal? Well, Big Breaking News will be our Moby Dick. And it’s the kind of news where Ben’s pet peeves can really become evident. How many times in a big breaking news story do you go to a major news site and a) read their lead story trying to find the little nugget that is new when the lede is written for people who haven’t heard about things for 24 hours or more? Or where the new information you might be most engaged with is in a sidebar that you have to seek out?
Of course, it’s not an easy paradigm to rethink. There is a lot of history, and a lot of inertia, that needs to be overcome – and there are real limitations to be addressed. In the last few days, there have been a number of designers and others throwing out their ideas for re-making news sites. But addressing this issue, finding Moby, means taking into account more than design, and addressing real challenges of the news environment.
What we’ll come up with remains to be seen – but I’m pumped to be a part of breaking new ground.
So, what do you think? What would you like to see in a breaking news environment. What have you liked and hated? Comment now and I’ll bring your voice into the room.
And of course, I’ll let you know how it goes.