The evidence supporting this shift is everywhere. You can't read an online study without being a
click/swipe/gesture away from a data point that speaks to “2014: The Year of Mobile.” Most news sites are seeing 50% or more of their engagement coming from mobile devices. Consequently,
fresh product decisions are being made the priority (at least within my company’s walls), but reimagining the reporting, packaging and composition -- the "journalism" -- has lagged behind.
The idea that it always takes 600-700 words to elucidate an opinion is ridiculous. That (approximate) mythical word count was determined by the 72 column inches in newspaper pages for the previous 100-plus years. Those pages dictated an organization’s ability to tell the story that needed to be told. Consequently, there still are far too many people convinced that “journalism” is what printed newspapers used to do. That’s patently false. Journalism is content that serves readers. Sometimes they’re the same thing. These days, they often are not.
Yet the transformation to truly consider the news medium is finally happening. Two examples of experiences that have rethought news delivery: Circa and theScore. Instead of force-fitting the traditional construction of a story, they both have redesigned the packaging of news in a concise, clean experience that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Circa -- whose tagline is “Save time. Stay informed.” -- has created a simple yet comprehensive interface that boils down news stories to their facts and compartmentalizes data points with contextual linking. Reading about Russian troops taking control of a Ukrainian gas plant in Kherson? That fact comes with a map of the region. Figuring out what Amazon Fire TV is, and see a reference to Google Chromecast? If you are not familiar, you have direct access to related articles about that service. And if you are familiar, there’s no time lost.
theScore, a mobile sports app, touts its stories as being broken “into ‘snackable’ bites that track and stack developments as soon as they happen.” If you’re a hardcore Washington Redskins fan like myself, you knew that DeSean Jackson was released by Philadelphia Eagles. You knew he could sign in D.C. Delivering a soup-to-nuts retelling of that story isn’t an efficient use of this fan’s time -- I just want to know the terms of the signing. But if I wanted more, the stacking of related items that build the arc of the story can be accessed.
Then, to the benefit of theScore or Circa, I’m off to the next piece of content.
I’m not suggesting that everything should now only be short facts, tweets and soundbites. To the contrary, I’m suggesting that quality, user-serving content is not inherently any length. Accessible, accurate or differentiated content is quality.
Just think, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 268 words. That’s some effective content. This post is … well, over 500. We share the same birthday, but I’m no Lincoln.