There’s been plenty of buzz over the last couple of weeks about the launch of the new ITV News site. Previously, it was a very watered down offering, and no match for BBC or Sky, as you might expect. Both Sky and BBC boast well established products in digital news, and are very good at what they do, and as such, this allowed ITV to basically throw out the rule book and try something different.
In itself, that’s a great way to approach any project, and is widely applicable. Say you want to start a technology blog, there’s no point modelling yourself on the Verge. They already exist, and you won’t be offering anything new. In choosing to ignore the standard news website format, ITV allow themselves the potential to offer something different, new, and carve a niche against well established competitors.
The company they enlisted to help build the site is creative digital design agency Made By Many. They make trendy apps and hang out in Silicon Valley and stuff. While I’m sure the big people at ITV had a say in what went on, I really admire them for handing the reins over to a company like Made By Many – long time editors, or broadcast journalists etc. don’t know best when it comes to innovating in digital news, and we shouldn’t be afraid of handing projects over to professionals. I wonder what digital news would look like if more projects were outsourced to, and lead by, creative agencies.
Made by Many started the project with a fantastic question, and one I’d like to open up for discussion: “What would digital news look like if newspapers hadn’t come first?”
In the eyes of Made by Many, it’s a world of rolling updates, tagged stories, and plenty of multimedia. ITV News is a nice place to be, and I’ve been actively keeping it open over the last week since its launch to see how actually using it felt. It works, and I really appreciate the length of updates.
Someone described it on Twitter as a Twitter-Tumblr hybrid, and I think this is a very apt description. Twitter is too noisy, and too short to pick out key pieces of news all day, and I often don’t have time to read longer fleshed out journalism from somewhere like the Guardian (or BBC Online, or Sky etc.). In their rolling update style, I’ve found news to be more easily consumable. One prototype tester said: “In all honesty I must log onto the BBC website and my local news website at least 20 times a day mostly through my smartphone or work computer, and I can honestly admit that I learnt more about today’s events by logging onto this 3 times today”.
ITV isn’t perfect yet, but I think the concept and question about what news would look like online if we didn’t have so many preconceptions is really interesting.
Forget all that stuff you’ve learnt about content above the fold, and 400-500 words being the best length for an article. Digital journalism should be far more social and collaborative, I think live updates should be the norm, and static comment threads might be more like chat rooms. We’d also be breaking news online 24/7, for a global audience, and not waiting for tomorrow’s front page or the 6 o’clock bulletin. And you can forget traditional news website designs and layouts, but I’ve been over this before.
Comment, or tweet @wannabehacks with your thoughts!
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look