Three worthwhile reads on the future of news (2015)

Snapchat’s new Discover feature could be a significant moment in the evolution of mobile news

Joshua Benton does a thorough job pulling together thoughts and reactions to Snapchat’s new Discover feature. He says it’s significant because it a) puts news where the audience already is, b) is completely mobile native, and c) retains flexibility in form. He also notes, though, that challenges will come when/if it scales – “navigation problems, discovery problems, personalization problems”.

I agree it’s significant and was pretty impressed when I first saw it (once I figured out the navigation). That said, I haven’t remembered to go back since that first visit.

Snapchat for beginners: Mashable

I use Snapchat because friends and family do, and because I’m sometimes a lazy communicator and find it fantastically convenient to snap a photo and scribble a one-line message.

Most users, though, are young. And Snapchat’s early news partners in Discover are making a real effort to target accordingly.

From ‘Trust in News’ to ‘News Profiling’

Frédéric Filloux, in Monday Note, discusses The Trust Project’s suggestions for improving trust in the news. I agree with them all: they include news organisations posting a mission and ethics statement, listing the expertise of their writers and contributors, indicating who and what level of editing was involved on a given story, including citations (links to source material), and showing how a story was put together (eg how many interviews, the reading, and checking involved).

The Trust Project is an effort by Richard Gingras of Google News & journalist and ethics scholar Sally Lehrman “to consider new approaches to building trust in journalism”. I recommend reading their thoughts on Medium:

Online Chaos Demands Radical Action by Journalism to Earn Trust

Filloux adds the concept of readers enabling Google to create a News Profile of themselves which can be matched with semantic information from publications to create a tailored news feed: “Think about the benefits: A skimmed version of Google News, tailored to my preferences, that could include a dose of serendipity for good measure… Isn’t it better than a painstakingly assembled RSS feed that needs constant manual updates?”

A mile wide, an inch deep

I can’t recommend this piece from Medium CEO Evan Williams highly enough. His take on the value of various audience metrics is bang on, in my view.  A couple of excerpts:

We pay more attention to time spent reading than number of visitors at Medium because, in a world of infinite content — where there are a million shiny attention-grabbing objects a touch away and notifications coming in constantly — it’s meaningful when someone is actually spending time.

The problem with time, though, is it’s not actually measuring value. It’s measuring cost as a proxy for value. Advertisers don’t really want your time — they want to make an impression on your mind… As the writer of this piece, I don’t really want your time — I want to make an impression on how you think… At Medium, we don’t really want anyone’s time. We want to create a platform that enables people to make an impression on others… It’s hard to measure all that.

This is the problem with any one-dimensional metric. As Jonah Peretti says, there’s no “God metric”:

If you’re an entrepreneur (or public company employee), don’t get caught up in this. Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways. Trust your gut as much (or more) than the numbers. Figure out what matters and build something good.

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