Jeff Jarvis offers a good piece on the product of journalistic information gathering in a new digital environment. He argues that the rendered end product that dominated the print era — the "article" — is/was a construct for that time. While not useless, in a digital-first era, the article should be viewed as one option among a diverse and growing set of modes, to be employed only when appropriate. The digital ecosystem demands whatever tells the story best, matches the pace and flow of events, gets the job done, and acknowledges the key differences between digital and print (instant, continuous, collaborative, interactive, etc.). A linear narrative composed of text in sentences in paragraphs maybe, but not definitely.
This is something I've argued with respect to another kind of information gathering — research. I think we need new constructs to supplement the "report," the "white paper," the "journal article," the "fact sheet" that were created in and for a pre-digital era. We need information vehicles designed for digital that harness the medium's unique capabilities (summed up in one word: interactive). While Jarvis is talking about journalism, his post has relevance for any field that engages in information gathering, analysis and dissemination. I hope he agrees.
Some important quotes with emphasis added:
Articles are wonderful. But they are no longer necessary for every event. They were a necessary form for newspapers and news shows but not the free flow, the never-starting, never-ending stream of digital. Sometimes, a quick update is sufficient; other times a collection of videos can do the trick. Other times, articles are good.
So what is an article? An article can be a byproduct of the process. When digital comes first and print last, then the article is something you need to put together to fill the paper; it's not the goal of the entire process. The process is the goal of the process: keeping the public constantly informed.
An article can be a luxury. When a story is complex and has been growing and changing, it is a great service to tie that into a cogent and concise narrative. But is that always necessary? Is it always the best way to inform? Can we always afford the time it takes to produce articles? Is writing articles the best use of scarce reporting resources?
We write articles for many reasons: because the form demands it, because we want the bylines and ego gratification, because we are competitive, because we had to. Now we should write articles when necessary.
Let the record show that I am not declaring the article useless or dead. Just optional.
Not sure how I missed this, but here are some interesting quotes from an unlikely source — Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban offers a post that should interest any organization in any sector as they navigate a new information landscape. Reading between Cuban's lines you find an account of an emergent direct communication model made possible by digital media. Take out "the Mavs," insert your organization, and you have a roadmap to a post-intermediary digital information era (emphasis added):
In the year 2011, we are in a completely different media landscape.
Unlike TV and Newspaper, I have access to reach their online audience. Not only do I have access, but so does each of my players through their own twitter and facebook accounts.
By competing with them as an information source, can we pre empt their negativity with information that does a better job of selling the Mavs?
Cuban also touches on web analytics as the measure of success and the tendency to tailor online material to achieve "traffic" as an end in itself. This has implications for how we evaluate communications activity in an online environment.
[Online writers] tend to look at the number of page views they get for any article as 'their ratings.' More is better. Which in turn leads them to gear their work towards generating more pageviews.
At the eG8 conference, May 24-25 in Paris, a panel made predictions for the next "transformative technology." These all have implications for how people access and experience information, whether it's the interface, content or location. Here is a quick roundup of the responses (in the order they spoke):
Craig Mundie Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft
Prediction: "Natural" interfaces for human-computer interaction will replace what has thus far been only typing, clicking, and touching.
Paul Jacobs CEO, Qualcomm
Prediction: The connection of wireless with health care will make care more personal, more real time. Connectivity will reduce mortality as in the example of the connected defibrillator.
Peter Chou CEO, High Tech Computer Corp.
Prediction: Fast mobile broadband will drive fundamental change in economy, lifestyle and democracy.
Danny Hillis Co-Chairman and CTO, Applied Minds
Prediction: The future will not be in human communication applications, but machine-to-machine communication. Also, "the internet will break," so the biggest question will be responding to this inevitability; building robustness.
Paul Hermelin Vice-Chairman CEO Capgemini Group
Prediction: An era of Big Data; a "tsunami of data."
Michel de Rosen CEO and Board Member Eutelsat Communications
Prediction: 3D and connected TV
You can follow the conference, including webcast, at www.eg8forum.com/en/
Poynter.org discusses Aside Magazine, an iPad web app developed completely with HTML5, thus no App Store approval, distribution or revenue sharing. HTML5 may not yet match the responsiveness and functionality of native applications, but this is an interesting example and trend to monitor nonetheless. Open http://asidemag.com on an iPad to see the prototype.
Update: Mathew Ingram's article on the subject at GigaOM: Will Publishers Choose the Open Web Over Apple's Walled Garden?
Update: Mashable's Matt Silverman discusses the native vs. web app issue in Can Modern Mobile Web Apps Loosen Apple's Grip on Tablet Publishing?