Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gawker's News Model: Beyond Blog and "River of News"

Gawker Beta Site
Gawker’s new design of their news site has moved beyond the typical layout of a blog.
The blog scroll, long the central element of the page, is shifted to the right column, still prominent but subordinate; … and only headlines are displayed. … In place of the original content column: one visually appealing “splash” story, typically built around compelling video or other widescreen imagery and run in full.
Gawker explained why they moved beyond blog towards a convergence of blog, magazine and television: Scoops drive audience growth, aggressive news-mongering trumps satirical blogging. A powerful story deserves the most prominent real estate and should stay there as long as readers still have strong interest in it. “In our current layout — there is no meaningful distinction between the quick post and a deeper story. Simple blockquotes and other short posts rapidly push our big exclusive down the page.”

They came up with two solutions.

  1. The creation or recognition of two different classes within the editorial teams: the curator or editor; and the producer or scoopmonger.
  2. Abandon the single blog flow and separate out the strongest stories.
We need a few breakout stories each day. We will push those on the front page. And these exclusives can be augmented by dozens or hundreds of short items to provide — at low cost — comprehensiveness and fodder for the commentariat. These will typically run inside, linked by headlines from the blog column, so the volume doesn’t overwhelm our strongest stories.
NPR’s Keith Hopper, who’s working with several public radio newsrooms to implement the Core Publisher platform that follows the “River of News” publishing model, blogged about Gawker’s new design. In the newsrooms that are piloting Core Publisher, he saw a similar division of labor emerging “between reporters who are tasked with keeping the river flow going and those who’s function has always been to produce deeper original pieces for the radio.” The “River of News” model uses traditional blog layout with stories presented in reverse-chronological order rather than in the order of importance. But the stories are also grouped by a set of pre-determined topics or beats such as energy and health (example of a River of News site) . Hopper is undecided whether Gawker’s new design is suitable for public radio newsrooms.
There’s still the challenge of ensuring the deeper piece is timely and compelling for a web audience, but the role division likely makes more sense in a traditional news shop like public radio newsrooms. Denton’s other solution is more complex and involves flipping the scanable blog flow to a subservient right rail and featuring a single lead story in the primary content well. For me, the jury is still out on the suitability of this approach.
I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution. Most local stations have a small newsroom with very limited capability to produce big exclusive stories on a daily basis. They may do a few in-depth features a year by themselves or in collaboration with other news organizations. For those stations, the “River of News” layout still works. For stations with significant news gathering capabilities, they may be better off using Gawker’s model. NPR can also consider adding a new “beyond blog” layout template to Core Publisher that allows stories to be presented in the order of importance. Core Publisher is built using Drupal, a CMS with capability to switch layout themes or templates. So there should not be much technical difficulties in adding more templates to Core Publisher.

No comments: