Future Of Web Publishing And Journalism Online: Key Trends For 2014 And Beyond
What is changing? What should you as a communicator, evangelist, news journalist, or blogger prepare, train and get ready for when looking at the future of publishing online?
The key changes and transformations that I have been able to catch sum up to a publishing ecosystem that is much less difficult to use, and where interfaces gradually disappear to become a "just-in-time" utilities.
Commands and options are there only when you need them - just in time, otherwise invisible.
Design intelligence becomes part of the tools we use, so that you need not learn about design and graphics to produce professional-looking content.
Publishing online itself becomes an activity that is not necessarily bound to a specific web site, but more and more to create content that will be shared and used in many other different situations and contexts.
From static pages we are rapidly moving to a stream metaphor, and within it to cards, tiles and pins as our basic unit of information reference.
Curation, preservation and working with collections will rapidly become an important area of growth for anyone publishing online.
Some unfriendly shadows loom on the future of the Internet, and as a consequence of web publishing too. These shadows will not likely be dissipated unless you and me take some specific tangible action. So, while the online publishing game looks exciting for the future, to keep playing we need to understand that what we can do today may not be possible tomorrow unless, we keep ourselves informed and we do something about it.
Here each one of these topics in more detail:
1) From Pages to Streams
Tech futurist Kevin Kelly has long anticipated the idea that we are gradually moving from static pages to streams (or "flows", as other people may like to call them) of information on specific topics.
According to him we are moving from:
- File -> Pages -> Streams
- Folder -> Link -> Tag
- Desktop -> Web -> Cloud
You can literally see this at work by browsing any social media home page, from Facebook, to Twitter or LinkedIN.
Every social platform presents the user not with a traditional, classic web page of content but with discrete streams of information based on:
a) their friends posts
b) their own shared contents,
c) specific keywords or hashtags.
Blogs themselves present a "stream" of posts sorted in reverse chronological order on their home pages. News sites are all stream based. Instagram is a stream. Your email app presents multiple streams. Social hubs like Rebelmouse or Tint do this, just like news curation tools like Scoop.it, Paper.li, Spundge and many other ones. RSS feeds themselves are all streams of info that are continuously updated.
Overall, this new "stream" format appears to be characterized by:
a) being designed to be updated on an ongoing basis,
b) wanting to remain "alive" forever and
c) having the ability to archive, sort and find again anything that has been published before.
Streams may not replace static pages, but they will keeping growing in number to equal or even surpass them.
The key challenges to overcome, when it comes to control and manage tools that generate streams of content are:
- navigating easily and rapidly along the timeline
- jumping to specific points in the past
- finding and grouping similar items
- presenting a bird's eye view
- dicing and slicing the stream content
- filtering the stream by selected criteria
- curating parts of a stream(s) into a different publication format
(See also: "Future of Content Curation Tools: Part 1")
For authors, writers, journalists and independent web publishers, the gradual move from static pages to streams signifies that news, content and information needs to be in a status of continuous flux, verification and meticulous updating.
Source: "Kevin Kelly: How the Real-Time Web Changes Life Itself " - slide n.39 - 40
See also this video clip: "Kevin Kelly, Better than Free: How Value Is Generated in a Free Copy World"
See also: "404 Error: The Webpage is Dying"
2) From Streams to Cards
Just like our newly acquired technologies and abilities allow us to gather and publish large quantities of new content, we also need to be able to define basic information structures and delivery formats that enhance our present needs for just-in-time information, and that comply with the requirements imposed by our own information accessing devices and screens (smartphones, tablets, desktop and portable computers).
"Content being broken down into individual components and re-aggregated is the result of the rise of mobile technologies, billions of screens of all shapes and sizes, and unprecedented access to data from all kinds of sources through APIs and SDKs".
(Source: " Why cards are the future of the web")
As we realize how much better it is to move from static, closed and published page-based articles to streams, that allow us revisions, updates and after-the-fact-edits of our story, it is easier to realize how essential is also the need to atomize, chunk and break down all of this information into units that can be easily:
a) made part of a stream
b) utilized across channels and media devices flexibly
c) used to concentrate essential information bundles that can survive by themselves (without the need to be associated to their larger information units they belong to).
Cards, information cards are the best answer to this.
What are information blocks and cards?
"Cards are short information modules, based on the card metaphor which are designed to provide an easier way to organize, present and provide access to individual, self-sustaining parts of a larger content collection or information space".
(Source: "Why cards are the future of the web")
"What all of these have in common is that they're pulling information out of the app or the service and making it relevant to the moment. They're taking things out of silos, packetising them and making them sharable. But at the same time, they're making them canvases - not just files, but cards, content, real things that you can pass around".
"What could be more native to a smartphone than a piece of content the size and shape of a smartphone screen, that can be sent anywhere?"
"They're taking things out of silos, packetising them and making them sharable. But at the same time, they're making them canvases - not just files, but cards, content, real things that you can pass around..."
(Source: "Twitter, Canvases and Cards ")
In other words we are looking at a new way of organizing information on the web, away from pages and destinations, and toward a new paradigm of information creation and distribution in which individuals take on existing information modules and organize, review and re-assemble them together, with others, to create ever more comprehensive and insightful views of just about any topic, news or story (in an endless process).
"The most powerful thing here is the analogy with physical world cards. Don't think 'rectangles' or a html box, think of how you can use the pattern to manipulate information, for example flipping the card, folding it, expanding it, stacking, grouping, sorting cards".
(Source: "@Padday - from comments section of why cards are the future of the web")
"Not only are "web cards" an excellent format for displaying and interacting with mobile web content, they are far better suited for collection into logical groups, than traditional websites. This will allow for selective content from many different content providers to easily be gathered together and redistributed as a "deck" of related information."
(Source: "David Etheredge - from comments section of why cards are the future of the web")
In this light, we will be gradually moving away from linking individual items and pages and toward greater use and acceptance of content aggregation and curation efforts.
"This is driving the web away from many pages of content linked together, towards individual pieces of content aggregated together into one experience."
(Source: "Why cards are the future of the web")
The key advantages of this change are not trivial.
Adriano Ferrari of "GinkoApp" writes:
"How is this better than hypertext? In a word: context".
"When browsing wikipedia, for example, we often find ourselves meandering from page to page, without being to get a sense of the big picture. How does this particular topic fit in with the rest? Is it important, or a minor detail?"
"It means that text can now be two-dimensional. There's the linear dimension, and the hierarchical dimension".
"And cards, differently than traditional pages, make this hierarchical structuring not only possible, but more accessible to anyone".
To show you how pervasive and rapid has recently been the emergence of information cards as basic reference information, check this list of examples:
- Google new unified look
- Facebook. ("Every section/category of information, from the About to each item in the Timeline on a person's profile, are delineated as cards." - Source: http://tinyurl.com/kmtchyj)
- Windows 8 Metro interface
- Amazon Collections
- Curation tools like: Passle, Pinterest, Keeeb, Swayy, Cronycle
- iOS 7 Airdrop
- Google Glass UI
- PalmOS (2009)
- GinkoApp - Outliner
- Job cards
The Future of Google Search
3) From Articles to Ongoing In-Depth Niche Coverage
In harmony with the vision that we are moving from static, discrete and monolithic pieces of information (today's average newspaper article page on the web) to ongoing, flow-like streams of information made up of modular bits of info aggregated and curated by others, it is likely also that our concept of how news are done and published may change radically in the near future.
In particular, I am personally inspired by a few specific ideas and visions that, given enough time, may actually converge and radically transform the way we approach and work with news and information. These are:
- Process Journalism (Jeff Jarvis - @jeffjarvis)
- 100% Coverage (Jay Rosen - @jayrosen_nyu)
- News as a Learning Gateway (Jonathan Stray - @jonathanstray)
Let's look at them in a bit more detail.
a) Process Journalism
His observations and thoughts seem to me to be as relevant today as they were then, and they clearly synthesize a new way to work with news content and a radically new approach and attitude in preparing and publishing them.
Here some key excerpts from his writings:"Newspaper people see their articles as finished products of their work. Bloggers see their posts as part of the process of learning.Online, we often publish first and edit later. We do that on blogs. One could say that 24-hour TV news does that, though I rarely see the editing. Even a division of The New York Times Company - About.com (where I used to consult) - does its work in that order. (That is why About had dozens of writers for every editor [I don't know the mix today], while The Times has three editors for every writer.Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect. That doesn't mean that we revel in imperfection, as is the implication of The Times' story - that we have no standards. It just means that we do journalism differently, because we can.We have our standards, too, and they include collaboration, transparency, letting readers into the process, and trying to say what we don't know when we publish - as caveats - rather than afterward - as corrections".
(Source: "Process Journalism vs. Product Journalism")In his own words: ""process" looks a lot like "perpetually evolving unfinished product."
"I see a "process" as a series/sequence/cycle of steps that move toward a defined objective."
(Source: Process Journalism vs. Product Journalism).
b) 100% Coverage
Back in 2010 Jay Rosen of NYU proposed an existing idea, the 100% solution, as an effective approach to challenge the existing news-making status quo and to find new and effective ways to empower local news organizations.
His suggestion was to attempt to try to cover 100% of a certain subject, topic, event or issue and as problems arised, confronting them and finding new solutions could be a great resource for innovating the news.
Let me repeat: Cover, as best as possible, 100% of a specific niche.
How useful and effective would it be if news publishers moved on from reporting about "everything" and into 100% curated coverage of a certain topic, issue or story, opening a fascinating discovery gateway around each story and allowing, in time, for these streams to intersect and interconnect with each other?"Increasingly stretched orgs are trying to cover one percent of everything, rather than 100 percent of something"."100 Percent Solution as a way to think about things in a different way and motivate folks to try something new. It feels right to add credibility to a new or information service by promoting it as a 100 percent provider in a certain subject area in a world where everyone else is not".
(Source: Eric Newton - "The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News")"It educates contributors and readers to the daunting task of being accurate, all the time, and managing large amounts of data without errors. It shows why verification and skeptical analysis of information are important."
(Source: Andria Krewson - "The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News")"In fact, if you look at the hundreds of "digital native" niche sites that have sprung up over the last five years, their success depends on covering 100 percent of their chosen niche. The financial successes so far have emerged in national verticals in the topics of business (e.g., Marketwatch, 24/7 Wall Street), health (e.g., WebMD), tech (e.g., Crackberry), sports (MaxPreps and CBS' 230 college/university athletic sites that are part of its CBS Sportsline) and entertainment (Hitfix, Hollywoodlife, The Wrap)".
("Source: Jane Stevens - "The 100 Percent Solution: For Innovation in News")
"In this light the future of news looks like to be more focused, continuously updated, crowdsourced and highly curated".
(Source: "A template for '100 percent reporting")Check also: Slicing Up Local Media
c) News as a Learning Gateway
Back in 2011 Jonathan Stray, a freelance journalist and researcher, suggested through a milestone article entitled "The Editorial Search Engine" how useful and effective it would be if news publishers moved on from reporting and into 100% curated coverage of a certain topic, issue or story, opening a fascinating discovery gateway around each story and allowing in time for these streams to intersect and interconnect with each other.
By doing this, he suggested, we could not only make the news much more useful, interesting and relevant, but we could transform them into instruments for in-depth learning about anything we are interested in rather than as vehicles to sell higher priced ads before and after them.
In this light the future of news could be very much about "comprehensively informing an audience on a specific topic".
If you stop enough time to re-read it and think about it, this is a pretty powerful and revolutionary concept by itself.
"Rather than (always, only) writing stories, we should be trying to solve the problem of comprehensively informing the user on a particular topic.""Choose a topic and start with traditional reporting, content creation, in-house explainers and multimedia stories. Then integrate a story-specific search engine that gathers together absolutely everything else that can be gathered on that topic, and applies whatever niche filtering, social curation, visualization, interaction and communication techniques are most appropriate."
Google Living Stories
Though Google has long abandoned its experimental project, Living Stories, it may also be that the idea was too much ahead of its time. Four years later things are certainly a bit different and it is possible that what has been temporarily parked, may indeed come back, under a new name or format, in a more evolved and refined shape.
(Check: Future of News: Google Living Stories Still a Great Model for the News To Be)
The news want to live on.
(Source: Andrew Keen's head - and the shift from institutions to processes
End of Part I
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia on Tuesday January 21th 2014 as "Future Of Web Publishing And Journalism Online: Key Trends For 2014 And Beyond".
From Pages to Streams - Interplay of document pages and abstract graphic elements by Shutterstock
From Streams to Cards - Futuristic touch screen display by Shutterstock
From News Articles to Ongoing, Topic / Story Coverage - Blue eye with clock isolated on white
Process Journalism - Closeup of hands showing at the plan by Shutterstock
100% Coverage - The 100% Solution by Jay Rosen - 3d hundred percent gold by Shutterstock
News as a Learning Gateway - Going trough the underground tunnel by Shutterstock
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