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The article is dead – long live the story

In the Guardian today, Frederic Filloux wrote a fascinating piece about the future of the news article.

Filloux worries that people, even a “witty, fast-thinking young engineer” working “for an upcoming web and mobile platform” have an old-fashioned view of an article. “He looked at the journalistic article in an old-fashioned way: a block of text, augmented with links here and there, period.”

He adds: “This is no longer how it works – or should work”.

Filloux looks at the way we consume news stories on different devices: the mobile phone, the tablet and the PC. Each has a different use case and different value both to the consumer of news and to the provider.

Stories should spread across all media. They should be presented in different ways, taking advantage of different use cases and user needs. Filloux gives the example of three roles of the PC, for example:

  1. As an audience concentrator, deriving traffic from social, from search, from cross-links, from alerts, from aggregators and so on.
  2. As a starting point for further mining the depths of the web, including integrating other third party datasets
  3. As a promotional vehicle that will lead users towards subscription services, MOOCs, ebooks, conferences, paid-for expertise and so on.

It’s a fascinating insight into how media corporations can treat their content as Curve businesses in their own right. Instead of thinking about how many page views a story achieves, they can focus on how well that story converted to social sharing, to commercial success, to multiple touch points and so on. It rewards news organisations that think about their users as the primary organising force of their activities, rather than the stories alone.

And it’s fascinating that Filloux thinks that many web and mobile businesses are still stuck in the old paradigm, building online offerings that mirror the established conventions, rather than challenging them.

Nicholas Lovell