Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0 has an interesting discussion going about the unnecessary frustration users experience at the sites of main stream media publications. In a previous post, Scott attributes the problem to the fact that stories are written with the print mentality even for the online version.
That is probably one of the reasons why many new media networks are starting to gain ground over online Websites of main stream media. They are designed for online user experience. Yet, quality news reporting is the reason why the online versions of newspapers still have a healthy readership.
The conversation inspired me to think about another metric that is quite important - both off line and online - that of circulation. A while back, I made myself a note that asked: what is your circulation?
Daily print publications are now counting their circulation with the added online readership. The news is that even doing it that way shows a decline, because online readers are not replacing off line subscribers one for one.
Media planners are also finding the numbers for online circulation troublesome. According to a report in Circulation Magazine, they are turning to third parties as there is still a lack of standardized verification for digital media. We ought to be able to have a searchable online tool to figure that all out.
For online circulation only, we use comScore (probably the largest, and the one most agencies use); Quantcast (the ultra-hot up-and-comer); and Compete.
If new media is about linking, then your circulation is split into direct, and indirect.
In this light, user experience takes on a whole new meaning. News items are still important and relevant, as is great content. However, the way a story spreads is much more in the hands of those who think it adds value. Digg is one such service that helps spread news.
Jess (in the comments to Scott's post) shares the link to the new AP study on news consumption and usability. The study helped solidify AP's mission for the digital marketplace:
Create content that will satisfy a full range of consumers’ news needs and then build the links that will connect people to the relevant news they seek.
They also concluded that the fragmentation of the news channels and delivery models, as well as the user experience are by and large disappointing. The cultural anthropologist in you will love this report. Interestingly, Philadelphia was selected among the cities where Context-Based Research Group recruited individuals for the study.
It will not be shocking to you that today's faster delivery platforms have created a quick delivery and quick consumption model. New generations seldom dig deeper - yet they crave more information. Frankly, I have been quite anesthetized by the US news cycle that beats news into the ground and pulverizes it. The second finding addresses news fatigue and balance.
With the intent of creating social currency, new media has exploded the horizontal news - many blogs and sites reporting on the same story. Yet, even as there are different angles and opinions in the reporting, there is rarely any depth. That is what we still crave for. Which is excellent news, if you pardon my pun, for traditional news organizations that are trying to make a mark online.
From the study, AP came up with a new model that would have then shift from container to entry points. As you can see in this image, we now have a universe of stories made up of different spheres, each ranging in size and scope – and consumers interacting with the story from different entry points and platforms.
The editors' role is then one of "information officers" - those who must find ways to connect a story's entry points for users, and providing them more information than they could find by searching or scrolling.
Because of our capability of sharing news with each other, depth via links and repackaging take a whole new dimension. With information available any time, any place, the revenue model will need to be where we connect content, advertising and readership/listenership in a personalized way and large scale at the same time.
All this develops and loses shape while it takes different forms. What seems to be true is that online, user experience equals circulation.