Friday, June 18, 2010

Digital Distribution vs. Digital Information

by Jeff Stanger

An important distinction between "digital distribution" and "digital information" underpins the approach of the Center for Digital Information. Digital distribution is characterized by transmitting material via new media in forms borrowed from a pre-digital era: reports, white papers, articles, issue briefs, fact sheets, and press releases; distributed as static text and PDFs. Digital information is distinguished by communicating natively in new media, using the unique interactive capabilities of the technology.

Today, the policy research field — a vital multi-billion-dollar enterprise to inform policy debates and public understanding — engages almost exclusively in "digital distribution" as it has for the first fifteen years of widespread use of the Internet. A study commissioned by CDI found that 98% of data posted online by the twenty biggest policy research organizations consisted of a text summary with a link to "download the complete report" in static PDF form. Only 2% used any interactive features made possible by the technology.

This distinction is shown below with a list of the characteristics, modes and platforms that define each.

Digital Distribution

Digital Distribution

Definition
Using old print-based modes to distribute via digital media


Prevalence
98% of policy research posted online


Characteristics
Static
Text-heavy
Linear
Defined entry point
Author-controlled
One-to-many
Journalist-mediated

Modes
Report
Article
White paper
Fact sheet
Issue brief
Press release
Static text
The ubiquitous PDF
"Click here to download"

Platforms
Web browser

Digital Information

Digital Information

Definition
Using interactive modes to communicate natively in digital media


Prevalence
Only 2% of policy research posted online


Characteristics
Interactive
Dynamic
Visual
Illustrated
Digestible
Non-linear
Multiple entry point
Portable
Direct-to-consumer

Modes
Interactive information graphics
Data visualizations
Dynamic databases
Rich Internet applications
Animations
Motion graphics
Illustration
Computation
Customization
Mobile applications
Integrated audio and video

Platforms
Web browser
Mobile devices
Touch devices

Comments welcome...