How do you retain a sense of editorial voice and craft as information architectures become increasingly metadata driven?
The step change was in creating a populated domain model for the games. The things that made up this vocabulary were used by journalists to tag their stories. The tagged stories were then aggregated automatically onto sports indexes. This allowed us to create many more indexes than would have been possible with manual management.
Overall the project was a great success but it raised some interesting questions. The design of the indexes was created by the user experience team. The algorithms were written by developers and informed the ordering of the stories. This left journalists to simply tag stories and watch their stories appear on indexes they had no control over. It certainly felt like their influence on part of the product had moved a step away from them. This was reflected in journalists’ feedback and the frequent questions about how to game the system to control the order of stories on indexes.
So the questions are:
- How do you enable the journalists to feel in control of the story telling?
- How to do this without introducing tags for value judgements?
- How do you ensure that the site has voice and feels editorialised – as opposed to being simply lists of dynamically aggregated data?
Tom Scott has convinced me the answer is the concept of the collection (and variations on this theme). The collection replicates the manually managed index of stories with a structured list of things. The Wildlife finder example is David Attenborough’s favourite moments. A very simple example for sport might be the best goals of the World Cup. Although this does not seem particularly radical, the beauty of it is that the curatorial layer is built on top of a domain modelled approach.
Because the things that live in our model are associated with assets and data, the journalist, in selecting a thing to include in a collection pulls data through the system.
Take the same example of the best goals of the World Cup. A journalist would select their top ten goals of the tournament. As the journalist identifies and pulls things through the system into the collection the context around those goals are pulled with them. So the game they were scored in, the importance it had and information about the goal scorers record in the tournament.
Why it is not tagging:
It is important to distinguish the process of creating a collection from the act of tagging. Tagging associates content with things in the domain model. Journalists tagging stories ensure we build up a consistent mapping of the editorial content to the things (and/or concepts) in our domain.
The process of creating collections is closely tied to the editorial judgement of those curating them. Tagging clips with the tag good goal and then anonymously aggregating them is not.
Why it empowers journalists:
The Guardian has found the balance in their topic pages by allowing an editor to pick a story to be displayed at the top of every automated page. But does this go far enough? This still sits very much within the document model of storytelling. What a collection (or similar) begins to allow is a true web adaptation of a news story.
It is the curatorial layer and the use of collections that will allow organisations to reflect voice, perspective and expertise. How this will improve the experience for the news reader will be the subject of this blog over the forthcoming months.
Could the means by which news organisations adapt their story telling using tools like collections be the key to their ongoing survival?