Is it time to slow down the news, asks Journalism.co.uk

Slowly (why of course!) but surely, the “slow news movement” is becoming part of the media conversation. This week, online magazine Journalism.co.uk dedicated a podcast to the question “Is is time to slow down the news?

It features Newstapes and De Correspondent, but also more recent players to the game, like The Charta founders Carolina Are and Charles-Edouard van de Put. They just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their “slow news magazine”, that would wait for events to unfold before starting to cover them.

The Charta and De Correspondent are both exploring an interesting territory as they are trying to prove that “slow news” does not equal putting out a weekly magazine but really is more about redesigning the content for the age of the permanent update. Listen here.

“The Guardian” creates automated slow news experience

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Just saw this on Nieman Lab: “The Guardian experiments with a robot-generated newspaper“. Called The Long Good Read, this new publication is a weekly digest of the “best longform stories of the previous seven days”.

The philosophy behind the product fits perfectly into a “slow” approach of news. Nieman Lab writes:

Jemima Kiss, head of technology for The Guardian, said The Long Good Read is another attempt at finding ways to give stories new life beyond the day they’re published: “It’s just a way of reusing that content in a more imaginative way and not getting too hung up on the fact it’s a newspaper.”

The algorithm put behind the experiment is merely a way of making the selection more efficient. But it may promise more future computer-assisted selection of content that ends up being printed…

The project overall reminds me of The Guardian weekly I subscribed to years ago, which was a digest of the world’s news stories published in the British paper.

Jeff Jarvis says news is more efficient

Young people (18-30 yo) spend almost half as much time reading, listening or watching the news than their grandparents, according to Pew Research.

According to Poynter, this is terrible news for the news. “News organizations clearly and correctly see digital readership as vital to their future. But again, this data suggests that expectations have to be modest with respect to regaining the huge audience the media once enjoyed.”…

According to Jeff Jarvis, this is proof that Millenials are just smarter (I told you, “lazy” is the new “intelligent”!) in the way they access news. Thanks to tools like Twitter and Circa they don’t have “to sift through a newspaper to find what matters to them and more time sitting, passively watching an hour or more of local and national TV news to get a one-size-fits-all summary.”

Interestingly, the author of Buzzmachine comes up with a service to make the experience more efficient overall… NewsPal.

“I want News Pal to be an emergent system that watches what I watch in news and feeds me accordingly with no effort on my part. If it sees that I watch news about Android, it should prioritize Android news. If it sees that I stop caring about Android after I buy a phone, it should stop caring for me. If it sees that I never read sports, it shouldn’t give me football stories. If it knows where I live and work, it should give me relevant news for those locations. Of course, this system should also give me the news that everyone will want to know, feeding me reports on the Kenyan mall attack even if I haven’t shown an attraction to Kenyan news. Editors recognize those breakthrough stories. So does Google News’ algorithm.

I also want News Pal to cut through the worsening clutter of repetition. (…) In the net, my News Pal would give me greater relevance because it knows me, higher quality because it knows news sources, and greater efficiency because it reduces the noise in news.

Sounds cool and oddly familiar, doesn’t it? Like he’s the cousin of some News Concierge or something… ^^

3 arguments in favor of taking it slow

Do you still need help convincing yourself that there is some good in taking things slow? Here are three articles I found lately, all making the case of putting the brakes on the real-time craze…, all for different reasons.

1. “What grew each day was my capacity for absorbed focus“. Tony Schwartz, from The Energy Project, took 9 days off and details what happens when you really disconnect for the Harvard Business Review. “I realized how much richer and more satisfying any experience is when it’s not interrupted — even if the interrupter is me.”

2. “Multitasking can have long-term harmful effects on brain function“. Time.com resurfaced a study from Stanford professor Cliff Nass, suggesting that there is “a two-task limit on what the human brain can handle“. His recommendation: a precious 20-minute rule.

3. With the manhunt for the Boston bombings suspects came the hunt for media screw-ups. Last week proved to be a sort of “stress test” for the media in general, and former experts of the real-time continuous news cycle in particular. “Covering heater stories in today’s instantaneous, 24-hour news environment is a flat out sprint. No network made it to the finish line without tipping over at least a few hurdles., writes the Chicago Sun-Times But CNN showed us it needs to get in shape, fast.” I myself find it much better to catch up on the story just now…

On the “summification” of news

iphone5-3The story made big headlines early this week. Summly, a mobile news app developed by a British 17-year old, got bought by Yahoo! for some 30 million dollars. Of course, this acquisition has something of a PR-stunt and there is also some down to earth truth behind the fairy tale. Yet, this story is very interesting because of what it says on today’s state of news.

Our vision is to simplify how we get information and we are thrilled to continue this mission with Yahoo!’s global scale and expertise“, writes Nick D’Aloisio, founder of Summly, on his company’s site. His take on “simplification” was creating “summaries” of news stories, more or less by extracting information from most articles first paragraphs (read technical take on this here).

Yahoo’s move for Summly seems to confirm a bet, many others have been making on, what I’d call, the “summification” of news – a trimming and slimming down of media content :

  • mobile news app Circa does a very good job with its editorial staff to break stories down into small data points, called “atomic units of news“. They got recent public praise from Dave Morin, co-founder of Path and Circa investor
  • newsletter TheSkimm promises to “simplifies the headlines for the educated professional who knows enough to know she needs more”. They “do the reading and explain it with fresh content” (unfortunately, the latter is not always much better than original).
  • in similar semantics, SkimThat lets the “community” do the summary work and really pushes the simplification to its limits…
  • so does the site tldr.io who promises to summarize webpages on the spot with the help of its users
  • on a more journalistic side of this specturm, there’s “10 things you need to know today“, in which news site The Week sums up ten news stories in five lines, and gives a brief link if you want to read further

I share their philosophy on the need for a more time efficient distribution and consumption of news. People can easily turn away from information if they feel overwhelmed. Simplifying some stories is very helpful for the more casual news consumer.

However, I’m bothered by the motivation of these services who still seem to care… about volume. For instance, Nick D’Aloisio, who thinks “summaries will continue to help navigate through our ever expanding information universe”, takes special pride in saying that “over 90 million summaries [have been] read in just a few short months.”

Personnaly, this is precisely what made my experience with Summly disastrous: everytime I would launch the app, an overwhelming “99+ unread summlys” would welcome me. I would flip through a couple of them but read none because of a lack of interest. Summarizing news to fit more pieces of content into my media diet doesn’t seem to make sense.

Which leads me to another important issue : the “why?”. Why do we want to summarize news? Is it because news is not worthy spending time with (sort of what Summly suggested) ? Or because we want to make room for the things that are worth our while (what I hope to achieve) ?

There is an inherent danger, in this tendency to over-simplify and über-summarize, that we suffocate the news and end up spreading the feeling that news is not valuable enough to have us spend time on it.

USA Today partners with time travel app Timehop

How slow can news be? USA Today is maybe about to set a new standard for the it’s okay to read yesterday’s news tomorrow“-way of thinking. The newspaper just announced a partnership with time travel app Timehop.

Timehop is a mobile app that sends you daily reminders of what happened a year ago on the same day, by scanning through the social media accounts that you linked to Timehop. Not sure if their’s an use for that? Well, I was reminded by Timehop just a couple of days ago that, exactly a year earlier, I had received an e-mail telling me that I had been selected to be a semifinalist for the fabulous Knight fellowship I’m lucky to be part of now. Seeing this brought a great dose of happiness to my day.

In the case of news, these time capsules can have other kinds of value. They can add context, be a fun fact or piece of trivia to discuss at the water cooler, or maybe something else, that USA Today will find out later on.

This is how the paper sees the use of Timehop for now:

When a user pulls up a specific day, it will show content they shared last year, two years ago, or as far as they prefer. Starting today, USA TODAY stories will filter into the daily feed, showing users the big stories written on that day.

But it’s not all about exploring archives. USA Today digs out the past to connect it to current events. This would be the story featured today on Timehop:

timehop+usatoday Possibly, this will lead to stories of their own. This is maybe one of the things that are likable in this partnership, along with the early adoptive attitude of the newspaper, trying to make use of a new technology that is not, per se, dedicated to storytelling or journalism.

It will be interesting to see if other media outlets will follow USA Today’s steps.

[via AllThingsD]

Own the weekend



“Own the weekend”. It’s a pretty nice tagline that the British newspaper The Guardian got itself to promote its weekend editions. Discovering it on a friend’s Facebook feed, I first thought they were launching a new product to help you get up to date on their great content during the weekend to better own the rest of your time off. Actually, they are just adding a “Cook” edition to their weekend publication. The video is still pretty cool and funny and features Hugh Grant. The ad was created by BBH, the agency responsible for the award-winning Three Little Pigs ad.