Hi, my name is Julie Whitaker, I’m the social media editor at WNYC. I also went to the Online News Association conference in Atlanta, and wanted to share something I heard that is still kicking around in my brain a few weeks later.
In a session on new story formats that looked at story streams, topic pages, and live blogs, Zach Seward from Quartz took the conversation a slightly different direction with his discussion on what he called “things.”
He started with three provocative assertions:
- There’s no demand for landing pages.
- There’s no demand for packages.
- There’s no demand for articles.
"I might even go as far as to say there’s no demand for news," he said as the crowd, full of journalists, laughed and somebody yelled, "Shut it down, let’s go home!"
The new news habit is no habit at all.
As you can see from this Pew study on news habits, people are increasingly not looking for news during a set period of the day—reading the paper over breakfast, checking npr.org at lunch—so much as news is coming at them from all directions throughout the day.
And separately, what you have instead of a loyalty to a specific news organization—even a specific organization’s coverage of one topic—is people getting their news from a variety of sources.
When people are looking for news just from your organization, there’s more room for packages and landing pages. But when it’s being pushed at them all day, there’s a tendency to prefer the atomization of content, the distilling of news into “things.”
What is a “thing”?
"Things are the grist of the social web. They are the stuff people pass around, saying: ‘Here, look at this thing.'”
The most literal interpretation of “things” can be seen in headlines that start “Here are…" or "Look at…" or "This is…" These articles are framed as something that can be passed around, even if the one thing being shared is just part of the broader coverage the publication is doing on a given subject.
You can see this in the list of the New York Times stories shared most frequently on Facebook in 2011. Many can’t be described as articles, they are before/after photos, a list, a statement, an opinion. The New York Times also wrote articles about the issues related to these “things,” but what was shared was the raw statement, the list, the photos.
The example Seward gave that has stuck with the most is this one.
An article about hackers that gained entry into Gawker Media’s database had 5,000 page views. But a list of the top 50 passwords revealed in the course of hack got ONE MILLION page views.
At WNYC we’re already playing around with this idea, trying to report and frame our newsroom pieces in ways that make them easier to share. Of course it won’t work for everything, but we’re already seeing more social shares than usual for stories like These Are the Six Questions on Your NY Ballot Tuesday and This is What $1 Million in Marathon Security Looks Like.
Listen to the full audio from the ONA 2013 session “An Exploration Of New Story Formats." Seward comes in at 30:00 and shares many more examples than I did here. Check out his slides and follow him on Twitter.
You can find me on Twitter at @julesdwit.