Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

In online news, only the presentation matters

It the industry may finally be learning from our companions in social media and aggregation. We’re starting to see that users want things to be simple, up-to-the-minute, all in one place and, by God, they aren’t going to just read whatever we say they should.

I’ve been working on a project with Gannett that tackles the next phase of our websites’ design to reflect a lot of these observations. I expect the same is happening at news companies all around the nation. I can only hope we all don’t continue to make the same mistakes in designing around the often conflicting interests in content and advertising.

The past couple of weeks have seen the roll out of a few new looks and ideas for online news presentation that really seem to focus on the observed needs and desires of readers, while not ignoring how much the online medium has to offer. These three presentations, in their own ways, seem to fit what we know users want…and quite notably, they dared to design them without ad positions.

NewsPulse

NewsPulse on CNN.com is a great visualization of the idea many of us have had for online presentation. It’s s simple, sortable stream of stories by media type, topic and various measures of popularity. It is essentially Digg without the Diggs and a lot cleaner interface.

Caveat: As a front page web news manager, I hope some measure of importance of news could be factored in as a filterable option, as many people who’d use this product might not otherwise see “important” headlines because they would not be popular or in a topic area they would tend to read. Of course, the user should probably visit another site if they want “important” news anyway (zing).

Living Stories

Living Stories, the new presentation experiment from Google, the NYT and WaPo is exactly what online news should be. I can’t get over how amazing this presentation is and how useful it can be for following a complex, long-term story or topic (like the health care reform).

A Living Story gathers all news updates, opinion, multimedia and conversation on an ongoing story in one place, at one URL. The format is best suited to help a reader see the latest developments in a story, with a timeline of events, important documents and user comments in an easy-to-digest fashion. What I like best about it that it is customizable, cookied for returning visitors to pick up where they left off and easy to follow offsite via RSS and email alerts.

Best of all, if this project works out for all parties involved, Google will make this available to other sites. It’d be a huge improvement in what’s currently available on most news sites, including that of the WaPo and the Times. You can read more about the living story from Paul Bradshaw, who is similarly dazzled.

Real-Time Search

You might not consider it a news presentation, but Google’s real-time search is a perfect format for breaking news. It builds on Google’s already formidable search presence with live news updates on a searched topic from news sites and Twitter (with more to come). It isn’t exactly made for news, but it should be. Maybe if we spent more time working with Google as opposed to trying to fight them, we could get something really great out of a product like this.
We at Cincinnati.Com used Google’s real-time search to supplement our coverage of University of Cincinnati football coach Brian Kelly’s departure for Notre Dame.  It’s an improvement over Twitter search (which we’d usually use) in a lot of ways because it allows you to see the latest news on the topic from blogs and news sites. I do wish that, like Twitter search, it allowed you to customize a geographic range…but that can always come later.

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1 Comment

  1. In online news, only the presentation matters http://bit.ly/4TnNzJ

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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