Improving the Website News Experience

There are a lot of great things about Twitter. One that sticks out to me is how often the service breaks news stories. When a Twitter user learns of something or sees it, a few taps can relay that news to hundreds of thousands of people as quickly as you can send a text to a friend. It’s phenomenal. Another great thing is Twitter’s ability to act as a live blogging platform, of sorts. For those who are on Twitter, it’s a great way to get filled in by someone who is witnessing a news event unfolding first-hand.

When you go to a news organization’s website, however, you don’t get near-instantaneous news. Most of the time, you get someone rushing to update a post in a CMS each time something of note happens. The front page of a news site hardly captures the sense that news is happening everywhere, every second. It shows whatever someone typed up 5 minutes ago, or an hour ago, or even half a day ago. Newspapers have a cutoff before they go to press, and they’re printed on paper. That content is static. They have an excuse. A website does not.

It’s 2012, and visiting a news website still feels like it did in 2002. These pages don’t feel alive. They don’t do enough to pipe in content that someone is rushing to put out with their thumbs. They don’t try to include people who might not be reporters, but are on the scene nonetheless. There’s an awful lot of “don’t” without any signs of “do” now or in the future.

I toyed with this the tiniest bit using the @Hashburg account (that I tried not to annoy people with), but I wasn’t pleased with the results I was getting using existing platforms and tools. The idea was that certain hashtags (#news, #weather, #traffic) were being searched for within a 25 mile radius of Harrisburg, and those tweets were being retweeted automatically. My goal was to eventually collect these tweets and present them in an easy-to-read format on the Web. But that was going to be more static, and lacked the human curation I feel is necessary. It was not at all what I envision now.

So here’s my pitch. If you’re a dev, designer, or someone interested in contributing to a project that does not compete with but enhances current news offerings, shoot me an email – shawnfarner@gmail.com. In the meantime, I will be trying to transfer what I’ve been whiteboarding into something that is a bit more clear and a bit less babblish.