Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Editors as Information Officers

This was the heading to one of the diagrams in a report commissioned for Associated Press:
Associated Press and Context-Based Research Group (2008) A New Model for News: Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption. AP. http://www.ap.org/newmodel.pdf
The diagram in question said that "Editors must find ways to connect a story’s entry points for users – providing them with more information than they could find by searching or scrolling." The idea is that people have more than enough facts and superficial/ disconnected headlines, and want more back stories, updates and spinoffs.
Obviously the other side to this (i.e. my perspective) is that people could be educated to make these connections, by learning to browse more effectively, for example, and that perhaps information professionals might be well qualified to become editors...
The report itself describes an ethnographic study into 18 people's news habits: 3 each in India and the UK and the rest in the USA. I initially found the way they described the methodology a bit gushing, but in fact it goes into quite a lot of detail about how they did the study and is more accessible than a lot of research descriptions. The descriptions of the participants' news habits are also vivid.
This is a study for a news media publisher, which had the ultimate aim of helping the publisher understand how to get people to consume more of their news, so the second part of the report is devoted to proposing a strategy (that is where the diagram came in) and giving a case study of the UK's Telegraph.

The 3 British participants are from Brighton, "selected because the city is quickly attracting a young new population with its universities and established cultural life" which rather seems to leave out of the picture the discarded chip packets, pebbles, and dogs on string (I grew up there) (and a fine place it is too ;-)
Photo by Sheila Webber: Brighton Beach, December 2007.

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