It was quite interesting to know that social media is “breathing new life to old stories“. It seems that archive content is becoming viral thanks to (frictionless) sharing. This clearly shows the main difference between paper and digital, linear and non-linear.
The Guardian and The Independent have both integrated their content into Facebook and this has lead to wide and rapid distribution of their content via the social network.
The strange thing is that – without any effort or intention on their part- many of the most popular stories from these papers on Facebook have not been to do with revolution in Egypt or US presidential campaigns, but they have instead been articles from the late 1990s. As the FT Techhub reports, the most shared list on The Independent website has been littered with stories with headlines like: ‘Sean, 12, is youngest father’.
What does this mean for newspapers?
I have always defended that media should have a digital strategy for archives:
Well organized archives are paramount in a medium in which information lives forever. This allows a longer lifespan for content, make it easily available for future reference, it can be used for self reference in future content, and cross referencing for external content and curation.
And it also builds brand. This out of time sharing phenomenon is important to understand how users information habits have changed in the past years and what are their needs, and what is causing this. And the answers are pretty straight forward:
- users have access to content from different points in time more easily than ever;
- users have the personal interest in sharing what they find relevant. Social Media is a huge factor these days;
- users can comment and build on that information, use it to generate more information, and make it available;
- users can organize that information for themselves, or for their community;
So, you have a news organization. And in your website’s database you have thousands of news articles. What do you have to do to make that content more valuable?
- content should be tagged accordingly. I spent a lot of time during my training sessions explaining why tags were important for users and journalists- not do they only help classify the contents of a story, but it relates that content to other articles: people, places, events, etc. As a user I can find more information about a specific item, as a journalist I can use an old article as a reference for my current story;
- archives should have better mechanics: lists of items are useless, make them look more like a section of your website, with images and metadata, and other types of data, like visits, shares, number of related articles through tags or if it belongs to a series, and the ability to visually place them in time;
- this content has to be available to be curated using tools similar to Storify or Bundlr (disclaimer: I know and I’m friends with Bundlr’s creators, and I think it would make a great internal curation tool for news websites).
- news content should be broken down to raw data: addresses, statistics, number of victims, poll results, goals scored, minutes played (sports are the best subject for archive use, I once was giving a class in a room filled with year collections of a sports newspaper, gigabytes of information on paper, thousands of charts, profiles, data visualizations to be created).
And what is causing this? Well, it’s easy, information is perennial (as long the servers are maintained). Even Cristiano Ronaldo used archive information (moving images, for the matter) to create a video showing his time as a young player(Facebook video) in Portugal. Now information can be reused, reviewed, replayed. And some stories just live forever, others find a new life, or a new importance under the right light.
News have now a different life cycle, and the potential is great for new products, relationships and business.
What do you think news companies should do with their archives? Do you think they are putting their previous work to good use? As a user, would you like to have more access to news archives and make new things with that information?