Rather than trying to redefine “the basic unit of news” — it used to be the story; is it now the fact, or the topic, the issue, or what? — and what that implies for the work of journalists, going forward it will be most useful to think about content as a cascade, as in a stream running down a rocky glen, always moving, dividing, uniting, filling pools here and there, constantly finding new niches to fill.
The metaphor of content as a cascading stream means there is no unit — a stream is a stream, it has no discernible building blocks. And it means that content doesn’t sit still. It is never static, but always changing.
Now, that’s not really the way things are right now, especially at newspapers. Right now, usually, a reporter goes out, covers an event, comes back, bangs out 20 inches, moves on to the next assignment and never looks back. The story’s brief online incarnation on the live news site is devoid of hyperlinks; no context is created; and then it disappears into a for-pay archive where few will ever pay the too-high fee to retrieve it. Yes, many newsrooms have moved in the direction of online-first, but even there, it’s mostly publish and move on.
But let me lay out a different vision of how content will flow in a fully digital news enterprise, whether it’s the Associated Press or your friendly neighborhood blog, with benefits at all levels of content creation and consumption: the content cascade.
Continue reading this post at Nieman Journalism Lab.