robertogreco + theawl   3

How to end on the internet
"It’s impossible to end a piece on the internet. All the conventions incubated in print fall flat: the neat summary, the mild prediction, the kicker quote. Especially the kicker quote.

Maybe it’s because the internet is endless and we all know it, so any suggestion of completion — of a thought, an argument, a story — rings false. “Oh really? You think this is it? Please. I’ve got ten more tabs lined up.”

Also, let’s be real: we rarely get to the end anyway. Midway through, we get distracted. We jump around. Pieces on the internet don’t build to a crescendo followed by applause; they cross-fade, one into the next.

Given all these challenges, there is no set of internet endings I admire more than John Herrman’s in his series THE CONTENT WARS at the Awl. John works for the New York Times now, and while there’s no question it’s an important platform for him, it has been impossible not to notice that his endings have changed, which has made me appreciate that previous run even more.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

John deployed the blog-style “Anyway!” with some regularity; I’ve always loved it, even though I’ve never quite been able to articulate what it does. Lower the stakes? Acknowledge that the reader had something else she was doing before she got sucked into this? Whatever the case, it’s one of the great rhetorical discoveries of the mid-2000s.

One of his personal trademarks was the Big Maybe — Exhibit A, Exhibit B — in which a piece, after building its case, explodes into hypotheticals: maybe, maybe, maybe, I don’t know! It reads as an unraveling of the thread of coherence; an admission that it was tenuous to begin with. It is, I think, a gesture of genuine humility. “I see this only barely more clearly than you.”

Then there’s the way this numbered list goes off the rails: 13, 14, 15… 234875627839452… 45862170348957103946872039568270. I love that sense of like, buffer overflow: of staring a powerful system in the face and coming away with a nosebleed.

Of course, this is my favorite:
In conclusion, haha, ashkjghasgauosghasugas;gashgk, who knows.

…because it is the ending that probably every piece, in every medium, deserves. And because it would never, ever be permitted by the editors of the New York Times.

Reading all of John’s CONTENT WARS endings (is that a weird thing to do? Because I just did it) is illuminating, because all of them, even the more conventional ones, share an unmissable sensibility, almost a declaration of values. In quick succession, you find: humility, and a reminder of the limits of knowledge; that almost comical effect of a mind straining to contain its subject; and an absolute refusal to retreat into empty optimism. All together, this is a pretty good stance for the 21st century.

It’s been a joy to read John in the New York Times and it is without question an important step for him — a place he’ll improve in lots of ways. However, it must not pass without mention:

Mr. Malik of Gigaom, whose site employed 85 people at its peak, said if he were to start the business today, it would probably be a Facebook page. There is an opportunity, clearly, to reach people there. Money? That’s another matter. “How do I monetize?” he asked. “Still not clear.”

They’ve got him doing kicker quotes."
howwewrite  2016  robinsloan  internet  johnherrman  structure  endings  unfinished  maybe  anyway  style  web  journalism  theawl  nytimes  thecontentwars 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The year of the splinter site » Nieman Journalism Lab
“Journalism shouldn’t live or die by the number of eyeballs or the number of shares it attracts. Focusing myopically on scale and continuing to optimize for the largest possible audience compels us to the lowest common denominator of editorial quality.”



"2016 will be the year of the splinter site.

To continue pushing forward and shape their future, media companies need to be constantly looking for new opportunities, new approaches, and new platforms. It’s partly how we’ll crack new markets.

A splinter site is an editorially independent venture, a media product built to stand on its own and designed for a specific audience. They will start modest and many will fail. Some may take on a life of their own, becoming sustainable in their own right, while others may be folded back into its parent. The splinter site is a way of increasing journalistic surface area. And despite the name, the word “site” is being used rather loosely here — a splinter site doesn’t necessarily mean it has to live on a website or be an entirely sectioned-off space. Some of these “splinter sites” will be entirely distributed, exist only in apps or social products.

News organizations will shift their focus away from trying to adapt the same content for different platforms. Instead, they’ll put their minds to creating entirely new editorial experiences — content designed for specific audiences, delivered through specific channels.

We’ve already seen a handful of media companies pursue this strategy to varying extents. The New York Times revealed a glossy new Cooking site and app. BuzzFeed expanded from entertainment and lifestyle coverage into serious journalism, longform and investigative reporting, releasing their news app this past July. We saw Vice launch Broadly, their female-centric channel, covering the multiplicity of women’s experiences through original reporting and documentary film.

We also see this splinter site approach in the portfolio of sites owned by Vox Media — Eater for food and restaurants, Racked for shopping and retail, Curbed for real estate, Vox for general news, Polygon for gaming, SB Nation for sports (which is itself a collection of individual blogs), The Verge for tech, culture and science, and Recode for tech. The Awl network, too, is a collection of sister sites — eponymous The Awl, Splitsider, The Billfold, and The Hairpin — each with their own unique tone, audience and sensibility.

As readers and distribution mechanisms continue to get more and more fragmented, the less it makes sense to contort and reshape one editorial approach for different groups. We’ve seen the seeds of specificity in the launch of new verticals and channels spun off from existing media companies, but 2016 will be the year news organizations fully embrace this construct.
Splinter sites serve an underlying trend: Publishing is converging on specificity. So much of content online today has been roped into this rat race for growth, competition for mass media metrics like clicks, pageviews, and shares. This has led us to a sterile, centralized web. By focusing on a particular, specific lens for content, journalists can create and deliver more meaningful stories. Journalism shouldn’t live or die by the number of eyeballs or the number of shares it attracts. Focusing myopically on scale and continuing to optimize for the largest possible audience compels us to the lowest common denominator of editorial quality.

But a splinter site is an opportunity to start from scratch. It frees a news organization from the weight and legacy of an existing name, and gives you the opportunity to think outside your CMS.

When you’re working within an existing brand, there’s a set of associations and preconceived notions you sometimes have to work against when trying to develop new audiences. You can be set up to fail because you’re fighting a deep-rooted notion that your publication — say, my idea of what The Washington Post is as a thing — is not for me.

But what about about sites that are built from the ground up for a specific type of reader? This invites a different type of relationship, one that’s more emotionally resonant and compelling, laying the groundwork for developing depth and habit with an audience. Consider BuzzFeed’s Cocoa Butter, a distributed project that “focuses on making fun stuff for and about brown folks.” Cocoa Butter exists in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, and is a station within Facebook Notify.

Splinter sites are a means of identifying new opportunities and adjacent problems with the potential to impact journalism in a big way. They can help inform future efforts and give better clarity about entering new markets.

In 2015, we saw a continuation of testing, experimentation and iteration in developing novel approaches to journalism. But next year, we’ll see more bold moves — new, edgy, experimental splinter sites from news organizations that that break the mold of our expectations and the status quo. They’ll help to chart territory that’s not just down the block from where we are as an industry today, but rather, will survey the broader landscape and see what’s up in an entirely new city."
katiezhu  scale  journalism  2015  news  media  spintersites  fragmentation  small  socialmedia  twitter  facebook  buzzfeed  instagram  experimentation  skunkworks  statusquo  sbnation  polygon  theawl  splitsider  thebillfold  thehairpin  audience  multiplicity  nytimes  pop-ups 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why I Believe in Text — Thoughts on Media — Medium
"The next step is to have publishing and blogging platforms introduce “medium form” structures. Formats like Medium’s responses help you get your point across in faster and more lightweight manner. There has yet to be a widely adopted writing format that is medium form, under 2500 characters, can be read under 5 minutes, and designed with constraints for brevity. I see great potential for fast, medium-length, text sharing on the web. The format can be written in an abstract form where the user is constrained by a character limit under 2500 (approximately three paragraphs). Constraints in writing structure can breed innovation and concision. It also solves the blank canvas problem where people are intimidated by a never ending blank text editor.

Gone are the days of 10 minute long reads like http://longform.org/. People are producing and consuming content in shorter, quippier, digestable ways (listicles, Buzzfeed, Twitter, theSkimm etc). As a writer, I find this paradigm shift towards short form text both fascinating and scary. The scroll can be your friend when you write long prose (Source: Michael Sippey). Now people just stop scrolling when your content doesn’t catch their attention in the first 30 seconds.

The market for text is larger than ever

People are still reading and producing text more than ever. Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and iMessage indicate that the demand for text in messaging and commenting is exponentially increasing. People are just writing and consuming text in different ways.

For a social network to cater to as many people’s needs as possible it needs to provide a spectrum of sharing as diagramed above. No one sharing format can perfectly capture one person’s identity or needs. There is an amalgamation of personas within social networks. Snapchat is for fast, casual sharing in real time; Instagram is for beautiful images + text to capture your best moments; Notes and Medium are for deeper and richer storytelling when you want to get your points across. For a healthy sharing ecosystem you need a wide spectrum of sharing from lightweight to heavyweight richer storytelling.

Christiana and I broke down the sharing ecosystem by content types and depth of expression. Depth of expression is how much emotional content you can convey in one post. As you progress to the right of the spectrum the content format becomes more meaningful and deeper in expression due to a combination of text and multimedia stories. When I see a singular check-in or Snapchat, I get a glimmer of a person. When I read a note or Medium post, I feel connected to that person and know how they think.

The future of writing is going to be Text+

Text’s linguistic sentence structure adds unique organization to other media. When it comes down to telling a story in visual, video, or written form it is all about flow and organization. The ability to communicate with simple words to complex sentence structures to paragraphs offer an unique advantage for text to be a flexible and modular media that organizes photos and videos into a multimedia story.
Text is the most flexible communication technology. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, when there’s a picture to match what you’re trying to say.
— Always Bet on Text [https://graydon2.dreamwidth.org/193447.html ]

The future of text is going to be text+ (text + multimedia e.g. photos, videos, gifs, podcasts etc). In a mobile first world coupled with our shrinking attention span, readers and users want text+ for a faster, more immersive, gratifying consumption experience. Multimedia stories are the future of text. For rich storytelling to have the fast consumption of videos and it photos, it also needs to be interwoven with the depth and organization of text. It’s not going to be enough for Medium to be just text + photos. The Atatvist Mag does a great job embedding rich media into longform content. Now anyone can generate Pulitzer-winning content on par with “Snowfall”, which is powerful. The Atavist is democratizing high brow publishing to the masses. You don’t need programmers or photo editors anymore to produce high quality long form content. Publishing platforms like Facebook Notes, Medium, and the Atavist empower anyone to generate publisher-par content.

Text Conveys Emotional Depth

I question a world and system that overweighs “fast food consumption” over “slow food consumption”. Text is slow food because it takes longer to produce and consume. Like fast food, fast consumption fills you up fast but doesn’t do much for you. In a world where we measure user satisfaction and trust, we neglect the very basic metric for “connectedness” between users. NPS scores mean nothing if your users don’t feel connected to each other. I want to see companies adopt a metric for “connectedness” measuring how a reader feels towards the writer after reading a story. We should measure how you feel after reading a post. Did it make you feel more connected to the writer? Was the 1 minute you spent reading quality time? How does 1 minute of cat video trade off with 1 minute of reading?

Most importantly, text conveys a certain emotional depth that is not possible in photos and videos. People write during heightened states in their life like when Sheryl Sandberg wrote about losing her husband (I broke down reading her beautiful and poignant post) or when Mark Zuckerberg wrote about the miscarriages he and his wife Priscilla experienced before Max was born (very few people talked publicly about the pain of miscarriages until Mark’s text post). Writing helps us share our pain and heal together by connecting others to us through shared humanity. Through writing we find out that we are not as alone as we thought about our hardships. Writing is a conveyor of vulnerability and brings people together.

You can get to know someone through their writing. Writing makes me feel like I know someone like katie zhu before meeting her. From reading Katie’s Medium posts, I felt like I knew her and skipped the small talk when we met in person. We talked about everything from our shared love for writing to love-hate relationship with SF to internet ethics to cognitive diversity. We started on what would have been a fourth or fifth conversation level all thanks to me reading her writing. Writing connects people because it provides a deeper understanding of someone’s psyche, their beliefs, and their values. And that is a powerful thing in a world with so many disparate beliefs and divisiveness in political and religious factions. Writing has the ability to help you understand the other side’s opinion and dismount hidden biases.

Your product is only as good as the amalgamation of the people who use it. Content changes on the web but products that build deeper, meaningful connections between people will be lasting.

Let’s not get caught up in a “fast food consumption” world and forget that the internet can also be place for permanent, deep, and meaningful expressions. And this is why I believe in text. Text is not over yet, it’s just the beginning."
boren  writing  text  web  digital  via:tealtan  2015  slow  reading  slowreading  howweread  howwewrite  communication  socialmedia  atavist  longform  mediumform  snowfall  christinachae  twitter  theskimmm  buzzfeed  michaelsippy  slate  theawl  text+  theoffing  theatlantic  alwaysbetontext  sms  texting  snapchat  connectedness  emotions  storytelling  instagram  medium  facebook  internet  online  photography  video  toddvanderwerff  messaging  chat  multiliteracies 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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