Marco Arment, writing a response to comparisons between the soon defunct The Daily and his new, seemingly successful The Magazine:
“Tablet-native” publishing shouldn’t mean any particular multimedia features or structures. True tablet-native publishing should mean using the freedom of modern platforms to break out of the idea that publications need to follow a universal mold. They’re all just software now, and a unified platform would only limit the possibilities.
There is no one way to do it right but perhaps what makes journalism (and all reading, really) exciting on the tablet is ignoring the legacies that came before and exploring the endless possibilities of building something for a brand new platform.
Twitter and the new local
Just a few days after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and things already feel back to normal.
I had gone to my parent’s house to spend the weekend in suburban Pennsylvania when Mayor Bloomberg closed all the subways. The buses back to the city followed suit and I found myself stranded when the hurricane hit. I had a few pairs of clothes, my laptop, iPad, and phone but everything else was in my DUMBO apartment. We gathered around the television, playing games and telling stories, as the rain dropped heavier and heavier and the wind blew harder, pulling trees—root systems and all—out from the ground1.
After the power went out, we played Scattergories by candlelight and continued checking our phones—checking Twitter—for updates until even the cell service dropped out and we went to bed disconnected from the rest of the world.
Andrew Sullivan, in response to Newsweek going exclusively digital next year on the challenge facing large media institutions:
Of course a weekly newsmagazine on paper seems nuts to me. But it takes guts to actually make the change. An individual can, overnight. An institution is far more cumbersome. Which is why, I believe, institutional brands will still be at a disadvantage online compared with personal ones. There’s a reason why Drudge Report and the Huffington Post are named after human beings. It’s because when we read online, we migrate to read people, not institutions. Social media has only accelerated this development, as everyone with a Facebook page now has a mini-blog, and articles or posts or memes are sent by email or through social networks or Twitter.
I think Sullivan is hitting on something profound about reading online, and the rise of social media: we no longer need to read writing from faceless organizations. The internet is about people. People with opinions and points of view. People like you and me. We read online to read each other.
The ever-insightful Om Malik on the effect social media is having on news distribution, arguing that a media person’s role is no longer just reporting the news, it’s now about telling us what is important:
So what is the role of today’s media person? In addition to reporting news, I think picking things to amplify is also important. Back in the day, news people made choice by deciding which stories to write. Today, we have to adopt a similar rigor about what we choose to share and amplify. In sharing (on Twitter or even re-blogging) we are sending the same message as doing an original news report. The easy thing is to share or reblog everything, but by being deliberate about it, we are essentially “editing” and telling the world: “this is how I see the world/this particular beat.”
“Some people when they look for a job in journalism ask themselves, What do I like to do and Who can take me there? Who can get me to a war zone? To a ballpark? To Wall Street? To politicians, to movie stars? Who’s got the vehicle? And you send them your resume and you say, “I want a seat in your car.” … And you wait. But there are some people, who don’t wait. I don’t know exactly what going on inside them; but they have this… hunger. It’s almost like an ache. Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it.”
Sometimes I wish there was a script I could plug in that would automatically link to new articles posted by certain writers. Mandy Brown of A Working Library is one of those writers. Everything is pure gold and her most recent post discussing the state of journalism, news, The New York Times, and paywalls is simply brilliant:
[T]he Times paywall does not map to my reading behavior. I don’t read a single source for the news—I read thousands. I consume the news from all directions—from venerable institutions like the Times, to blogs that obsess over particular topics, to tweets from witnesses, and every imaginable source in between. I want news that is the aggregate of all these sources, that admits all of these varying (and often contrary) perspectives. Erecting paywalls between these locations misunderstands the ecosystem that each story participates in. The value I find in the news today is in its connectedness—in the ways in which often divergent sources come together to create a story—not its solitary authority.
This is a fascinating insight that I had not considered when thinking about why the paywall rubbed me the wrong way. Like many others, I was concerned about the general complication and confusion about the setup and pricing structure as well the fact that it’s hard when something that was free gets taken away. I don’t want to pay for something I got for free for so long.
But this idea of the connected story? This was new to me, yet in retrospect feels completely obvious. It started seven years ago when I set up my first RSS reader and started compiling the sites I visited each day. The way I got my news, in that moment, changed and it’s only deepened since. The Times wants me to pay because they think they will be my number one, go-to source, except that’s not the kind of world we live in anymore.
So what does this new world of news look like? It looks like Instapaper, or Readability, or perhaps Flipboard, if Flipboard can learn how to aggregate information in a way that makes sense. It looks like 1-Click, or Kickstarter, or Amazon’s singles. It looks like tools for making timelines or managing primary sources. It looks like dispatches from people on the ground. It looks like startups we haven’t seen yet, because a few smart people (perhaps exiles from newsroom layoffs) are right at this moment looking at the reactions to the Times and starting to plan for how they can do better. It’s both dispersed and connected, social but not inane, reliable and diverse. It looks like many things, because there isn’t going to be a single way forward; the future is, as ever, more complicated than the past.
So what is the future of news consumption? It’s incredibly personal, customized to each consumer yet, in the same breath, it’s beautifully connected, allowing us to see the larger stories unfolding around us.
Mandy Brown on a web designed for reading from the Readabilty blog.
[P]eople do read online. They read more than they ever did. They even read long articles, and straight to the end. They read one article after the other. They crave reading in the quiet moments of the day—waiting in line for coffee, riding the bus, enjoying a glass of wine before their date arrives at the bar. They read while walking down the street; they read at their desk in between tasks; they buy devices that permit them to carry more words than they ever could before—and with those devices in hand they read more and more.
Who says this isn’t an exciting era for the written word? What’s interesting is that the web, at its core, is designed for quick consumption, not long-form journalism. But we don’t have to choose between one or the other, between the longer, thoughtful pieces and the shorter, ad-driven sites. The web’s big enough for all of it.
Lois Beckett reports on Gerald Marzorati, former editor for New York Times Magazine and his thoughts on long-form journalism online:
We have metrics at The New York Times that show that people absolutely click the 23 clicks through to the end of the story. When I was at the magazine, the longest pieces in the magazine were the best-read, the most-read, the most-emailed. The pieces also tended to be, at the end of the year, the pieces that got the most pageviews of anything the Times ran…. People figured out their own sorts of behavior. They printed out the story — on the subway, you would see a printed-out version. Or Instapaper. People are reading these things, and they still become conversation pieces. I don’t know how many of you read Larry Wright’s [New Yorker] piece on Scientology, but a lot of people have read that piece…. [That] you can comment on them, you can blog about them, actually brings more readers to these long-form pieces.
The future is exciting. It’s like Gutenberg all over again.
(And, for the record, that Scientology piece Marzorati mentions is worth reading. One of my favorite things I’ve read online recently.)
Thoughts on Gizmodo’s story on finding the ‘new’ iPhone
Gizmodo has posted the aforementioned story about how the purported new iPhone was lost and how they got a hold of it.
You can read it here.
After reading it, I’m completely disgusted with Gizmodo’s handling of this situation. It is now clear they are just trying to gain page views and looking for a quick story (why write the entire thing like a movie plot).
A few thoughts:
- The entire story reads really weird to me. The inclusion of small details seem forced and just plain strange.
- What was the point in naming names? Gray Powell is likely out of a job now and it is completely unnecessary to publishing the story. And why only Powell? Why do we never hear the name of the person who found it?
- Gray works on software. Which means he more than likely has never seen the real hardware for the forthcoming iPhone. Each department in Apple works in complete isolation and secrecy from the other departments. The iPhone teams first saw the iPad when Steve Jobs pulled out on stage at his keynote. Why would a [seemingly] low-level software engineer be given the brand new iPhone to test out? And why so many months before the release? This is obviously a prototype device (or even simply a simple casing to house hardware) for testing. It just doesn’t add up.
- The phone apparently went missing weeks ago. The guy who found it supposedly tried to call various Apple numbers and no one was interested in transferring him to someone who could help. If this was the real iPhone 4, Apple would be doing everything possible to be getting it back secure. I find it hard to believe no one came looking for it.
- We still don’t know how Gizmodo got their hands on it. “Weeks later, Gizmodo got it. It was the real thing. Once we saw it inside and out, there was no doubt about it” is all we are treated with. Something is fishy.
- Why did Gizmodo wait a few weeks to call Powell? They had his contact information, they saw his Facebook, why wait so long? Also, that phone conversation is a bit hard to believe.
- Powell is still working at Apple? Something doesn’t add up there.
I was terribly disappointed with this story and this entire situation is just getting too crazy. I’m not buying it.
I’ve been trying to keep from posting about Gizmodo’s recent story that they have a hold of the new iPhone releasing this Summer, but Andy Ihnatko’s thoughts on the journalistic side of it all is a great read:
I’d be gravely concerned about how I’d come into possession of this phone. Gizmodo’s story is very, very fishy and they need to be far more open about the provenance of the device.
I’m very much looking forward to hearing Gizmodo’s forthcoming article about how they got a hold of the phone, thought it seems they are just fishing for page views now. (UPDATE: Gizmodo has posted their story here and I respond with a few of my thoughts.) The entire story is fishy and Gizmodo has a lot of explaining to do. If this truly was found at a bar, someone just lost their job. And if it was, in actuality, stolen from Apple HQ, that’s a whole other set of problems.
And, for what’s it’s worth, I have every reason to believe this phone is from Apple though I highly doubt that iPhone 4 that ships this summer will look like this. It may have the general feel and aesthetic but I would be very surprised if Apple ships a product with such visible seams and things like removable micro-SIM cards.
I loved this response to a question about Good’s journalism and visual philosophy:
We sort of tried to marry the two in thinking about how people consume news and information in general these days and how much demand there is on people’s attention. We wanted to create stories, and a way of telling stories, that was sensitive to these demands. So by making the magazine and website visually compelling and easily digestible, we felt like we’d have a better chance of getting people’s attention. But also giving them real information.
And then this part:
But we see it as our job and responsibility to find new ways of telling those stories so that they can fit into our style of infographics and visual story telling. (I’m trying to think of an example, but coming up blank at the moment). But that’s really the whole point. There’s so much data out there whether in government documents, or corporate reports. And it’s all so ugly. So our job is to figure out which parts are interesting. And how to present it in an interesting way.
Buying a Printing Press and the Way we Consume Media
The common phrase goes: “there is only freedom of the press for those who own a printing press.” For many years this was true. Up until the past few years, if you wanted to distribute content—whether it be a book, an article, a movie, an album, a television shot, etc—you had to go through the big media companies to get it out there. If you wrote a book, you had to find a publisher. If you had a script, you had to find a production studio. If you were in a band, you needed to find a record company.
The days of media companies controlling distribution have been slowly dying and they are closer to the grave now than ever before thanks to the internet. But not only is distributing this media changing, but the way we are consuming it is also changing. Newspaper sales continue to decline as more and more people get their news online. I watch all my favorite shows online, at a time convenient for me. I download most of my music—sometimes a song at a time—as opposed to purchasing physical albums that may only include two or three songs I like, I don’t need a media company telling me how to consume it.