A recent survey by Reuters reveals that a full 65 percent of U.S. users say
online media is their sole, more important, or equally important mode of
consuming news, as opposed to traditional media. Furthermore, the younger users
tend to be get their news online than via traditional media, making online the
way of presenting news in the future.
While there may be issues in
effectively monetizing digital media, there is another issue that is thought of
as a deterrent in driving more engagement and ultimately, more revenue: The
apparent paucity of innovation in online media.
Online media has been
around for several years now, so what are the innovative ways of presenting news
that are unique to online media? Here are some that come to mind:
These are all the rage and especially
relate to surveys such as “The Top 50 Cities in America”.
These were especially popular
in election seasons—drill-down and slice-and-dice data as results come in.
Although video has been around for decades in
television, its use on newspaper websites is innovative. Some publications such
as USA Today have aggressively pushed the video format of presenting stories.
A blog is not an innovation in its own right, but
its use as a less moderated, more opinionated extension of the newspaper is
certainly innovative. It also extends a newspaper’s reach to specific areas of
Publications like the Economist
have a topic graph of related topics that seems to be automatically generated.
It’s quite interesting, but doesn’t personally appeal to me, possibly because it
is likely automatically generated and the topics don’t appear to be specific to
Assuming we can address the digital monetization issue (if
that sounds like a big “if”, it could use some innovation too—something my firm
is working to create), what are the potential innovations that can drive more
engagement to online news media? Here are some ideas, mostly exploiting more
interactivity and newer technologies such as HTML 5:
The iPad application from Scientific American
does a great job of this, where concepts touched in an article are sometimes
detailed using an interactive model that can be navigated and zoomed in on. I’d
like to see more of this happen in the news media. I can see publications having
libraries of such content that can be easily updated and referenced when a new
related story comes up.
Game-like scene rendering:
Publications could have in their possession libraries of wireframes of elements
and scenes and assemble, modify and render them in HTML 5 for specific scenes of
interest, which could then be “walked through” or “flown over” by users. This
would have been great for stories like the recent Asiana Airlines incident at
San Francisco Airport.
Breaking news “tree”:
story develops, it often has multiple aspects. One could construct an
interactive “tree” that has the core story as its roots and multiple branches
that cover stories that relate to specific aspects of it. So, for example, a
story relating to a tornado in Kansas could have “Crisis Response” stories on
one branch, “Human Toll” stories in another branch and “Climate Change and
Tornadoes” stories in yet another branch.
This is a collection of important articles, pictures, videos
(interviews, live-action captures), and diagrams that relate to and explain a
specific issue, created specifically so uninitiated readers can familiarize
themselves with an issue quickly and get more in-depth knowledge as required.
This can possibly be done by better curation of existing archival content for
could be another source of interesting content. However, since the
signal-to-noise ratio of un-moderated content is very low, it often becomes
uninteresting. So, let’s imagine the following:
Note: None of these ideas have been vetted by me and
are provided here “as is” without any warranty of performance or feasibility.
- Bloggers are given a platform to blog on the newspaper’s website, in a
separate, compartmentalized section.
- Bloggers may socialize and popularize their own posts hosted on the
- The most popular posts from this section are then picked up for further
editing or moderation to feature in one of the mainstream sections of the
- A weekly award or even an online badge of a “featured blogger” from a
reputed publication would make all the difference in attracting user generated
Atul Tulshibagwale is founder of Laudd, Inc., a startup working on an
innovative new monetization system for digital content. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.