Specialization, user experience important considerations for digital media

18 Apr

Digital media is all about choice. For example, you can choose to read news in an app on a smartphone or a Web browser on a laptop. You could also listen to it in a podcast. The point is, it’s up to you — which is why it’s important for journalists using digital media to connect with audiences understand that it’s not just about the content they produce; it’s also about how users get to that content.

Journalist and computer scientist Jonathan Stray says  journalism’s product should be more than the content of stories, which is a notion that deviates from many popular ideas that center on establishing whole new forms of writing for digital media. While he still strongly advocates new writing styles for the Web and practices such as adding in-text links to stories, Stray argues that the goal of journalism should be agency, not just information dissemination. He says it should endeavor to distribute niche-specific information to people who can use it to “change the world” the way they see fit. Instead of just publishing information journalists think “everyone” should know, Stray says journalists should find ways to deliver content to specific groups of people who will find that information most useful. But they should keep in mind how that information is going to get to people. They should understand why some users choose to consume media via smartphone app and some favor TV: Journalists’ intent should be to make those choices worth users’ while.

I think looking at digital journalism as a way to work with people instead of talking at them, so to speak, is a good way to approach many platforms already in place. Catering to the user’s experience, as Stray says, can be helpful in a way that publishing general information to mass audiences isn’t. If the goal is giving people the tools they need to receive (and put out their own) information, then digital journalism could become a new way of empowering the masses.

But in order to promote user agency, journalists must commit to keeping up with as many platforms as possible. The idea of the “total journalist,” as BBC’s Robert Peston puts it, is at once inspiring and exhausting. Considering all the different kinds of media Peston interacts with in a day is overwhelming: He contributes to more than 20 media programs on radio and TV each day, all while keeping up with a blog that he updates frequently. This kind of frenetic connected-ness may seem daunting now, but being a “total journalist” could give an edge to digital journalists that those in print and broadcast can never have: the option to specialize information to specific groups. Benefits of specialization could come in the form of  increased readership and more advertising revenue. Time will tell if such fragmentation will catch on, but in a world of unlimited choices, the more specific that information is, the more likely it may be to attract an audience.

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5 Responses to “Specialization, user experience important considerations for digital media”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers April 19, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    Like this: I think looking at digital journalism as a way to work with people instead of talking at them, so to speak, is a good way to approach many platforms already in place.

  2. pocong 2 March 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article!
    It’s the little changes which will make the greatest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    • rowanedits July 23, 2014 at 10:23 am #

      Thank you so much! Glad you found it helpful. =) -rr

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