Wired Brainstorms

Chris Anderson is writing about open and transparent media from the perspective of innovation at Wired Magazine, starting with a few trends in the media landscape. From my own experience as a blogger, this one is right on the money:

THEN: Bookmarks and habit drive traffic to the home page; site architecture and editorial hierarchy determines where readers goes next. Portals rule.

NOW: Search and blog links drive readers to individual stories; they leave as quickly as they come. “De-portalization” rules.

Zeal and Activity is 32 days old. The great majority of hits come to individual posts from search engines, tags (WordPress’s Tag Surfer), and trackbacks. Of course, Zeal and Activity doesn’t have the focus of a Strange Maps or the niche of an I Eat Games (via Best Blog).

In the spirit of transparency and user participation, Mr. Anderson then outlines six possible innovations for Wired, including:

  • 1. Show who we are. All staff edit their own personal “about” pages
  • 2. Show what we’re working on. [Open internal wikis]
  • 5. Let readers decide what’s best. … Why not just measure what people really think and let statistics determine the hierarchy of the front page?

Great ideas, and as commenter Lisa said, it’s good to see a media organization leading innovation. I agree with many of the commenters (e.g. Jeremy), however: greater transparency probably increases user involvement and trust by addressing the issues that Glenn Reynolds noted here and Dow Jones chairman Peter Kann wrote about here. Greater openness with data could have prevented such media scandals; user access might add some perspective to partisan news coverage.

But while handing over editorial control to users may work well for the article on Wikipedia that Mr. Anderson cites, it won’t work as well for controversial material (e.g. the Los Angeles Times’s wiki editorial experiment). As commenter Soni said, the degree of openness will depend on context and content, and will be phased over time. And like many commenters, I value editorial judgement – filtering is an important function of the media.

Other potential areas for innovation:

  • More ways to link. When Zeal and Activity was three days old, I got a huge number of hits (well, more than 100) from an automatically-generated link at a Wall Street Journal post that I linked. The easier this gets, the more you fertilize the ecosystem around your content – without giving up control of the trunk (your story).
  • More ways to filter. Nested tags and keyword searches are good but don’t have the flexibility and power they could. What about an Amazon-style smart filter that learns what stories you and others like you prefer? Different weights for stories I (a) fail to demote, (b) click the “read the rest link,” (c) comment, (d) digg, (e) link myself, etc.
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3 Responses to “Wired Brainstorms”

  1. Eason Jordan for Transparent Media « Zeal and Activity Says:

    […] Zeal and Activity Religion, politics, business, books, and music. « Wired Brainstorms […]

  2. Joy Says:

    I think that, as long as you have interesting material, people will come to your site. Look at engtech. He has an interesting writing style, but no niche, and still attracts readers that participate. Which is one of the most important things to me. Knowing that someone appreciates what I wrote.

  3. Timothy Says:

    Hi Joy,

    Thanks for the note. I agree, and thanks for the tip on engtech. I hadn’t seen him before. The Manolo (shoeblogs.com) is another good example.

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