I get nearly all of my news online and have since the web really came alive for me about 15 years ago. I remember a feeling of power being able to not wait for the Weather on the 8’s or for scores to games. The web was the place where traditional news went to die for me. I think lots of people feel that way now.
Recently traditional newspapers in particular have felt the pain associated with not just the arrival of the web, but the masses’ emerging awareness of its amazing capabilities. With that said, I find it mildly amusing and very disturbing that the news industry did a lot to set itself up to have to deal with the reality of a sea of free and endlessly available content. Most of it produced by them.
One of the things I’ve never been able to understand really has nothing to do with the failing financial models. Why is it for all the great things we get from online news that newspapers have insisted on making their websites “look” like physical newspapers? Why must the first iteration of anything mimic the existing model? I’m not sure if they realize it or not but a web browser doesn’t support what a physical paper has to offer. Why not skip that same old and take advantage of the way the modern web can manage complex interfaces?
I haven’t seen much innovation in the news space online until recently.
My favorite online newspaper is the New York Times for lots of reasons. The first is their content — it works for me on so many levels. But at the end of the day one of the things I’ve fallen in love with lately is how much they are working to innovate online. I wrote a few months ago about Times People and I still can’t figure out why more people aren’t pointing to this little innovation as a glimpse into the the future of what we should see as the course management system in coming years. The ability to have a controllable social network that works together to build an active reading list so easily on the fly is quite interesting. Imagine that same interface as the LMS/CMS — allowing a faculty member or student to submit any evidence into the commons of the course. But as cool as it is, the Times People isn’t the only innovation that has me praising the spirit at the Times.
They recently introduced a new interface for browsing the paper in a really compelling way. It is yet another example of smart newspaper people rethinking the web as a platform to interact and engage with the news — something the rest of the industry needs to figure out if they are going to stay viable. The Times calls it the Article Skimmer and it is a really nice way to move around a paper. It actually feels a lot more like spreading a paper out and browsing the titles and picking what to read. I found a blog post from the NYT web team about the new view really interesting and it got me thinking about how different the web is than a giant piece of paper. Now, how it can integrate advertising in a compelling way will dictate its success as an interface over the long haul.
I think as we watch what happens in such a traditional place we need to be watching where they are going. When combine the above examples with the Time’s open APIs and free content the old school is looking a lot like what the new school should be all about. Shouldn’t we be thinking about how these kinds of interfaces should be built into the future of our learning management systems? Why do our LMS/CMS environments insist on living on the same old metaphors since they emerged? What does the open web teach us about how our environments need to support teaching and learning in a new era? Can we be as bold as the NYT?