What if Newspaper Home Pages were like iGoogle?

Man Holding NewspaperThis year I almost entered the Knight News Challenge. I developed a first draft for an idea, but just didn’t have to time to fully flesh it out.

I debated on whether I wanted to work on it more for next year, but decided it would be better to let it loose. And perhaps, someone will read it, and want to help grow it and develop it together.

The idea would put the design of newspaper and television Web site home pages into the hands of the readers and viewers – similar to iGoogle. It lets them shape the story the publication tells them in a way.

It has some strengths and weaknesses. Its strength is that it relies on user control. Its weaknesses are that I do not explain well enough its differences from tools like iGoogle. And, at least in the framework of the Knight News Challenge, it fails to provide enough benefit to a certain group of people.

Read the proposal, and contact me if you’re interested in developing it together.

2010 Knight News Challenge Almost-Entry

Project Title: NewsHome

Requested amount from Knight News Challenge: $200,000

Expected amount of time to complete project: 1 year

Total cost of project including all sources of funding: $200,000

Describe your project: This project will put the design of newspaper and television Web site home pages into the hands of the readers and viewers. Using open-source blog software, most likely Movable Type, we will create a platform and community for website users to create their own home page. Users will move around blocks of information, such as articles, photos, multimedia and advertisements, just like widgets on the back end of a blog. They could choose as many or as few widgets of information as they like. Content will most likely come in via RSS feed from different sections of the paper. Users will be able to customize their own Web site experience every day if they’d like.

Other elements of the software will be supported by a micro-community. Users will be able to see other home page designs other users have made, and vote for their favorite. Users will also be able to select from templates created by staff members and other users.

How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities? Newspaper, television station and other media Web sites are known to be cluttered, confusing and overwhelming to visitors and potential visitors. Let the audience solve that problem. This application will allow users a portion of control in how they receive and view the news in their community. News organization staff will also be able to see what users like in a home page/news website design. This could potentially inform future site design and user experience decisions.

How is your idea innovative? This solution to cluttered design harnesses a lot of existing technologies. Chief among these technologies are open-source blogging software and RSS feeds. It’s a mashup that aims to put users in control of how they view the news. The most innovative part of this is users will have some say in the way they get the news. This beginning stage of collaboration among the news organization and its reader, it’s hoped, will promote open the conversation between the two parties, leading to a more successful future partnership – full of worthwhile news and new ideas.

What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project? I have worked as a journalist at a community newspaper in Florida, and am currently pursuing my master’s degree in interactive media at Elon University. I have an understanding of how the news business works, thanks to my professional experience. My graduate studies have honed my skills in interactive design, usability and audience analytics. This combination is well suited for developing this kind of project.

Image by newspaper.