Posts about interactivity

USA Tomorrow

Kinsey Wilson, the editor who built USAToday.com into the powerhouse that it is, gave me a sneak preview of their redesign and rearchitecting, coming out next week: a big, five-month, 50-person effort that will continue in a rolling redevelopment effort. Inside, they called it the “networked journalism project” (and I’m proud to have contributed to their jargon, Kinsey tells me). It entailed new design and organization but also social-media tools and an effort to link out — to triangulate the news, in Kinsey’s word. They’ve even appointed a network editor whose job it will be to find opportunities to bring the audience in to elevate the journalism. Here‘s an image of the new front page.

On the mockups (keep in mind that they were put together by designers, who sometimes needn’t bother with dictionaries) you’ll see on the top of the home page a quote from the comments the site has under its articles (note that they don’t have forums — and their unruliness — but do have, Kinsey said, civil and valued discussions around articles). They want to emphasize interactivity and put the commenters out front. I said it will be interesting to see whether these out-of-context quotes will be compelling (I had trouble doing this with forum quotes in my prior life). Kinsey said it’s as much about valuing the commenters as it is about the quotes themselves. Much of this redesign is about such cultural change.

usatodayweb.jpg

On this page, you’ll see the On Deadline blog front-and-center. It has been “enormously successful,” Kinsey said, for USA Today. I do like how papers have discovered that the incredibly light and easy content management tool called a blog enables them to publish faster and easier. On the lower left, they — like other papers — are now promoting lots of their own blogs.

Here they expose the most popular stories as determined by readership, commenting, emailing, and recommendation — note the Diggification. (I look forward to most-linked as well.) In their effort to link out to other sources, even competitors, see this example of on-page external RSS feeds, powered by Newsgator.

Here they begin to use tags (these are machine-generated; given the biorhythm of news, I wonder whether a folksonomy can take hold in time). We’ll be seeing much more of that on news site, I’ll bet, as they move away from strict (USAToday-like) taxonomy to an all-roads-lead-to-Rome structure to give you many paths to relevant news, via links, tags, and search.

And one of the cooler features is a personal page that is populated with, among other things, the comments you leave around the site. It is an effort to enable a social network on the site built around content, theirs and ours. (I said that I hope they will make this portable; I’d like to put up on my blog a feed of the comments I leave on a news site with reviews I leave at Amazon and so on: my distributed identity.)

It’s a good design and all the steps are in the right direction. That’s especially important because USA Today is, indeed, a powerhouse. I was amazed when Kinsey told me that a majority of their readers come back every day — multiple times a day, in fact. That is quite unusual for newspaper sites. Elsewhere, the daily habit has been broken. But not here. With the addition of social elements and the valuing of commenting and the willingness to link out to other sources, I suspect that they will increase their frequency even more.

From an uber-view, what strikes me is that we are seeing a coalescing among the news sites around a roughly common aesthetic. Look at the Times, the Times, the Telegraph, and the Post: They’re all less-cluttered with more white space (and, as a result, more scrolling) and they share an affection for the same shade of blue. I think that’s a good thing: We are establishing a visual grammar for news.

But I also think this means that someone can break out and push to a next generation of news sites. In fact, since most visitors to most news sites I know don’t even go to the home page in a day, I think the next frontier of design will be about exploding home pages and sites in a looser network of distributed content. But more on that later.

: LATER: Here‘s the USAToday.com announcement, just posted.

Hillary’s question

Clever that Hillary Clinton has gone to Yahoo Answers to ask us our experience with health insurance. More than 37,000 answers at last count. Of course, she could have done this on her own site. But by going elsewhere — by being a distributed candidate — she gets more people, more attention. [Hat tip, Janice]

Davos07: User-generated content, aka our stuff

A session called “The user takes charage of content” begins with moderator Steve Adler, editor of Business Week, acknowledging the controversy over the session’s title. He shares my suggested alternative: “stuff from us.” Liveblogging….

Tom Glocer of Reuters said he doesn’t buy the professional/amateur line. (We’ll be left with no labels and no borders. And maybe that’s the point.) He says Reuters invented user-generated content 50 years ago aggregating trader information and then selling it back. Adler asks him whether professional journalists will lose their jobs as a result of this. “I think there’s only one type of journalism, which is good journalism…. I know some professional journalists who write crappy text and I know amateurs who write beautiful prose.” Asked whether there willl be fewer professional journalists, once again, Glocer says there will be fewer newspapers and that there will be other opportunities for people who want to do journalism to get paid for it.

Michael Wolf, ex-McKinsey and soon ex-MTV Networks, says that mashups work: “Clips make hits.” Online makes entertainment into something you can share. He says a deal with Google to put MTV video onto smaller sites creates a great deal more interest’ this “will only enhance your core business rather than hurting it.”

Rey Ramsey of One Economy, which tries to bring more people online, says he’s not hearing enough here about how to spread digital to more people.

Adler has been thinking a lot about the value of brands in various sessions and he asks Shelly Lazarus of Ogilvy & Mather about what happens to brands. She cautions about having a core to the brand but she also says that if your customers are making commercials for your products, “you got ’em.” She says there is a “confidence gap” in online, ugc in the ad industry because advertisers do not spend proprotionally to the audience. I would call this a “vision gap.” Or a “balls gap.”

Adler asks Yoo Huhn0Oh, CEO of Cyworld in Korea, about its unique business model: not subscription fees or mostly advertising but selling virtual products in its MySpace/Second-Life-hybrid service. It is spreading to a handful of more large countries.

Asked whether a network sould have started YouTube, Chad Hurley says he didn’t look at it that way: They saw a problem with video online and the difficulty in dealing with it. “We saw the power of simplifying a problem because we came from PayPal… In the video space, we saw a similar opportunity.”

Called upon and asked whether big media companies will be able to make this work, I say that we are in the third phase of what we have called interactivity:
1. Big media lets you talk here.
2. Big media asks you to give us stuff to enrich its sites.
3. Screw you, we people say, we own our stuff; send traffic and even money to us.
I give my standing illustration that Yahoo is the last old media company — because it’s centralized — while Google is distributed everywhere, enriching anyone. I say media companies must turn from owning content to enabling networks. So I turn the question around ask the guys on the platform whether big media companies can open up and enable networks.
Wolf says yes but in truth, he goes only halfway, enbracing getting his content out there distributed and remixed. And good for that. Call that 3a.
3b is having a relationship with the stuff we create and make and enriching us with attention, praise, promotion, money.

Asked by Jim Spanefeller of Forbes what he thinks of GoogleNews, Tom Glocer of Reuters says, “We like GoogleNews.” It gives them “ad revenue and page views we’d otherwise not have gotten.” Take that, Agence France Presse.

Someone in the room formerly known as the audience notes that one of the top-viewed clips on YouTube today is a film shown here in Davos yesterday with Israelis and Palestinians calling for peace now. Someone else complains that it takes too long to find the good stuff on YouTube. Hurley replies: “Now that we’re part of Google, finding videos will be a lot easier, that’s for sure.”

Jeff Clarke from Travelport says his attitude to people taking his stuff and putting it on their sites is, “the more the merrier.” He’s asked from the floor about a competitor taking all his stuff and making a business out of it. Clarke replies that he has made deals with just those scrapers. Information is commodified, he says, and so you have to find your differentiation elsewhere.

I’ll put up Chad Hurley video shortly with him saying that they will move to paying producers.

Say it to CBS and the world

CBS — which essentially killed its “free speech” segments on the evening news — is trying to open up again, asking you to record what you want to say to the world in 15 seconds that could end up on the air on Super Bowl Sunday.

f you had 15 seconds to tell the world whatever you want to, what would you say? Well, now’s your chance to be seen and heard on national television, courtesy of CBS Interactive. Post your 15-second video on YouTube, and CBS Interactive will select one to be broadcast on TV.

See the first videos here. Yes, a lot of them are silly at best. But there are a few gems, albeit rough, in the pile. And I expect you to submit the great ones.

Steve Garfield tells the fuller story:

Yay CBS.

This is a step in the right direction. CBS is now asking people to submit videos to YouTube.

CBS is following the path that Jeff Jarvis suggested, and that I prototyped with SayItToKatie.com.

I personally explained how user submitted content should work in a discussion with management at CBS. I looks like they were listening.

CBS has a 15 Seconds page over on CBS.com where you can read the rules and follow a link to watch the recently submitted videos over on YouTube.

This is a smart move by CBS since they don’t have to screen any videos, and all the submissions can be seen on YouTube. The only videos they have to get a release waiver for are those that they choose to put on CBS TV.

Congratulations.

Now I need something to say. ;-)

When I told management at CBS about Steve’s SayItToKatie, they loved the idea. I had to add at the time that the first videos were not, well, gems. But still, the idea apparently took hold.

So go to record your 15 seconds.

: EARLIER: Here was the BBC version. By putting on longer segments, I think they encouraged more intelligent submissions. But CBS improves on the idea by making all the videos visible via its tag.

But enough from you

Catching up on blogging lost in a busy week. . . .

: It would be a damned scandal if The New York Times does not replace Public Editor Barney Calame — and replace him with someone as forceful as Dan Okrent.

: James Lileks on the sale of his paper to private equity lords: “shakeout could be good for the paper, but replacing a few old goats with young cheap labor wouldn’t necessarily change things. You need to change so many things about the profession and the business and the people drawn to it.”