Failing Fake News Media

One of Donald Trump’s favorite epithets is the Failing Fake News Media.  It is all part of the Grifters Craft – disparage and demonize  individuals and news sources that get too close to the truth about what he really intends to do or is actually  doing. Play these  claims over an echo chamber of Alex Jones, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh,  and other Conservative Boom Boxes which  an angry and alienated 35-40% of the US voting population are only too happy to tune in to.

However, the Grifter’s edge is a sharp cutting blade of truth – the “Failing” News Media are indeed enduring very disruptive times just like casinos and entertainment which Trump did so dubiously in. Internet technology has changed not just how news media get paid for and delivered  but also  how it is created. Pew Research shows in detail how hard hit the newsprint media  are in particular. But all news media have had to adopt drastic measures to turn their businesses around:

  1. Put in paywall on their Internet websites
  2. Dramatically increasing their newsstand prices;
  3. Charge for extra services provided in their print and/or Web editions;
  4. Utilize Interactive Media that only run on the websites to earn a new paywall paying readership.

It is this Interactive Media approach that is rather novel and may make savvy news media more profitable or “winning” in the estimation of Donald Trump.

Interactive News Media

As you might guess there is a website for that – The Interactive News which highlights some of the best Interactive Graphics and Data Visualizations showing in the the print media. Of course, the irony is that most of these Interactive media cannot be printed and are “confined behind paywalls of varying heights”. If you visit the Interactive website you will see very fast evolution in Interactive Designs.

Early designs featured clever charts and color-meaningful styling – not only did they capture your attention but they helped tell the data story. The next phase is a burst of maps and graphics that again clarified the issue  with the help of charts and graphs. Innovative maps and timelines  maps  are still used but now animations come on board. Some early animations are decorative and attention getting. But as you shall see below in the Washington Post explanation of  climate change factors, animations are used to illustrate the story. Finally within the last 2-3 years, the News Media are using a full range of Interactive media including carousel sand slider, audio podcasts, basic interactive  games and a splendorous variety of video  techniques.

So let us look at three examples of Interactive News Media stories from  the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

NYTimes Interactive Media

Interestingly, the NYTimes which has pioneered in Interactive Media that used media sliders, animated graphics, plus colorful maps and timelines recently took a simplified but effective approach. A recent Interactive covering the Democratic debates uses video clips and clever cross  linking navigation to make finding out about 21 of 22 Democratic candidates easy and informative:
It starts with asking the same 18 questions of 21 of 22 Democratic Presidential candidates [Joe Biden refused multiple invitations]. What the Times does is video tape each question and answer session resulting in 378 video clips. Now the next step is to make it simple to navigate to these video clips and the NYTimes has come up with a simple and ingenious method:
The NYTimes has setup two video carousels – a carousel for each question which shows the response of each candidate for that question. A second  carousel of videos showing all the answers to the questions by each candidate. What makes this so efective is the easy navigation  Just click on a question and up pops a carousel of video clips of each candidates’ answer to that question. Click on a image of the candidate and you are taken to a second carousel which shows the video clips of that candidates answers to each of the question. This latter carousel allows users to see a specific candidates political and personal views quickly and conveniently.

This sequence provides wonderful insights as to the thinking and personality of each candidate for important issue like Climate Change or Health Care reform.But also the personal questions like What is your comfort food on the campaign trail? or  Describe the last time you were embarrassed?  provides real insights into the candidates personalities. ABut the real winner is the easy navigation to the response by the candidates.

Wall Street Journal’s Interactive Media

The Wall Street Journal and fellow Dow-Jones publication like Barrons are famous for their superb charts and graphics outlining complex financial events and deals. So it is notable that Interactive News features a WSJ article that emphasizes simple contrast by juxtaposition:

The title Blue Feed, Red Feed tells the story. Taken from Facebook are posts from Liberal Blue groups positioned right next to Facebook posts from Red Conservative groups. The initial load is about 5-6 comparison posts deep. But the WSJ allows users to Load 10 more at least 5 more times.

Also the Journal is explicit about what qualifies as Blue Liberal Facebook feed versus a Red Conservative feed and why the interactive has been done:

 If a news source appears in the left column, its links were frequently shared by Facebook users whom researchers classified as “very liberal,” based on self-described political leanings. In the right column are sources whose content was widely shared by Facebook users identified as “very conservative.”

Are you choosing which post to include on each side?

No. The content is being pulled automatically from these sites’ public Facebook pages, once an hour using Facebook’s software developer tools (specifically, the Graph API).

Are you saying that these views actually simulate what a conservative or liberal sees?

No. It’s possible that users have a wide variety of news items appearing in their feeds. These are simply posts from sources that aligned with a majority of users of a particular political view in Facebook’s study.

Why did you build this? Aren’t you just reinforcing assumptions about the other side’s biases?

We built this presentation because it’s hard to see these opposing views side by side. Facebook users who are curious about opposing viewpoints may be apprehensive about recording a like for a particular news source—an action which may be seen by other friends. (You can make likes private in Facebook user settings.) This tool gives people anywhere on the political spectrum the ability to see current discussions about newsworthy topics from both very conservative and very liberal viewpoints.

You can download a list of the sources included in this project here.

Now a final word about this being Interactive. The Journal states by using the Facebook Graph API, the feed entries for both Blue Liberal and Red Conservative feeds are updated once an hour. Try it out here.

Washington Post Interactive Media

Once again we have a newspaper famous for its investigative reporting playing in a new arena with Interactive media. But given new 2013 owner Jeff Bezos and his background in state of the art computing, the use of Interactive Media at the Washington Post may be a natural part of the Post’s strategy. certainly, the best examples of Washington Post Interactive Media start in 2013 when Jeff Bezos took over.

And one of the most interesting and amusing of the Washington Post interactives takes on explaining Climate Change  using an animated RubeGoldberg machine graphic:
wapo But actually there is a method to the Rube Goldberg madness – machines and pipes show some of the major climate change interactions which readers will discover when they click on any of the many gauges:
Here is an animated chart that shows the monthly change in heating vs cooling patterns throughout the world. The animation ref;ects the season changs but also some major secondary effects like the fast melting Greenland icepack leading to strong cooling trend in the North Atlantic. Th only problem is that many of the charts and data are 4-6 years old. It would be very interesting to see the latest trends.

However, at the bottom of the page there is a bonus:
wapo
The Post has 4 recommended topnotch  Interactive readings – well done.

Summary

Interactive News Media will  not single-handedly  bring prosperity back  to News Media  Publishing, but they do bring the Excitement of  Discovery and with that attention another step toward overall recovery and success.

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