Archive for January, 2011
In a recent essay in UX Magazine, Andrew Turrell, User Experience Director at Lunch.com, argues that the news feed format, those short bursts of syndicated information from Facebook, Twitter, friends, and media outlets, is becoming a kind of universal currency of digital experience. He writes: “As users consume more and more information on personal aggregation websites and on mobile devices, all content providers must evolve to meet these new user expectations and browsing styles, and come to think of the news feed as the default model for presenting digital content.”
I agree with Turrell’s premise, but I think he doesn’t go far enough in spotting the incredible convergence of social and personal “news” with old-school news outlets. For example, someone using Tweet Deck may in the same blush read a feed item from The New York Times about the recession and another item from Aunt Zelda about her cat, and that same user may turn around and comment on both. With the news feed model, Friend News from “content provider” Aunt Zelda and News News from “content provider” New York Times are both vying for your attention within the same interface and the same presentation format. And when you have friends sharing News News as well, it all starts to converge into one universal social and digital experience. It’s no wonder that Facebook uses a little Newspaper icon next to the news feed, and it’s no secret that social news has eroded older patterns of news cycles and news consumption.
Why has the news feed become so central to our everyday lives? Turrell is surely right that the small space format is perfect for the always-on mobile channel. Social and mobile are made for each other. But the other incredible power of the news feeds is the way that they enable sharing of all media forms. News feed items offer a bite-size package that can reveal movies, slideshows, music, and other articles while sparking multiple conversation streams and user actions. With the ability to expand a news item and view its attached media content inline, the humble news feed has incredible communication power behind it.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the news feed for how brands operate. Here are just a few implications:
- Every user is potentially a “reporter” and an advocate for your brand with their own set of friends and followers. They’ll decide what, when, and how to share parts of your story in their feeds.
- Brands aren’t locked into situations where news “breaks” in the mainstream press and then circulates among consumers. It can easily break in social news streams and then find its way into media outlets, who republish it in their own news feeds.
- Since it’s now mainstream for consumers to have their own mini-media audiences in the form of their friends and followers, they are actively looking for interesting media to share that can help them spark conversation.
- Because shared feed items flow into users’ personal space, they often succeed by striking the right conversational tone, with news written and designed not just for personal consumption but to be bantered about in a social setting.
What do you think? Are any of these ideas news to you?
Last week Mashable published an essay by Caroline Giegerich titled “The Art of the Checkin: From Location to Content to Brand.” Reading this reminded me of the importance of thinking of checkin services not simply as location-aware applications, but as context-aware.
Users now have an opportunity to move beyond simply declaring their location by using utilities like foursquare. They can share images of locations using Instagram, the shows or movies they’re watching using GetGlue, the games they’re playing using Raptr, and even the beer they’re drinking using Untappd. More importantly, all these services are starting to blend and interconnect. For instance, I can declare to my social network that I’m drinking a delicious Old Speckled Hen at The Plough & Stars all through one application.
It’s now important for providers of almost any product or service to pay attention to checkin services. This is no longer a matter of the local coffee shop offering rewards to mayors. Brands need to respond to or incentivize checkin behavior, even if they have don’t have a physical location. Simply put, being absent from this space gives other brands an opportunity to get a jump on you.
We’re at the very beginning of something very big. Now is the time to define what experience your brand will provide with services such as these – before someone else does it for you.