What kind of news consumer are you?
In this age of incredible access to information, there are many ways users can get news. Twitter, for instance, delivers news in 140 characters (actually fewer once you include a link).
But how often do you follow that link to read the story? And if you do go to the story, what do you want to see or do once you’re there?
The indelibility of the Internet allows news organizations to provide deep context on many stories via links to past stories or even tangentially related stories. The question is do we? How useful would it to be a reader?
The New York Times, for instance, offers it on a Times Topics page (see left): “Each topic page collects all the news, reference and archival information, photos, graphics, audio and video files published on topics ranging from A M Castle & Company to Zyuganov, Gennadi A. This treasure trove is available without charge on articles going back to 1981.”
Add to that the fact that there are different types of news consumers out there (read this 2009 blog post by Erik Gable) — the one who just wants a headline, the one who skims just the first half of a story, the one who wants to read and comment, the one who just cares about comments — is there a way for a news organization to cater to all these needs?
As an example, what do you think of the digest that CNN provides on each of its stories (see below, left-hand side under “Story Highlights”)? Does that help the skimmer? And how do we provide the history of a story without bogging down the latest story? As links on the side or within the story? As a separate page such as the New York Times does?
We’ve been discussing comments, so what do we offer the person who’s more interested in the comment thread? A way to pull that up first? A digest box for comments?
Is any of this dependent on the type of story it is?
In a comment to Gable’s story, Michael Andersen wrote: “In general, I think it’s a good idea for journalists to start spending more time rewriting our reporting for multiple audiences. First write the tweet, then the bullet-pointed Cliffs Notes version, then the traditional daily story, then answer questions in the comments.”
The key, as Gable put it, is engagement. We want to engage readers of all types with our stories, but we want to do it in a way that is useful and makes sense.