Context is King [Updated]
We’re in a new era of information / journalism. The old saying “Content is King” has given way to a new phrase – “Context is King”
As many of you know, I launched a Community Information Project funded by the Knight Foundation, called YourPBC.org; a site where local nonprofits act as civic journalists and post information about local issues in Palm Beach County.
After a year of running the site, we’ve saw that many people still require a great deal of context when concerning local issues – more than standard topics/categories that are found in the local newspaper.
What is context?
Context is the environment or situation in which something exists or occurs. With context, we can recognize the relationships between information and situations and make educated choices leading to action.
More information leads to less context?
In the old days, we only had 1 or 2 news sources, so it was easy for us to read individual articles and connect the dots to keep up with issues/topics – context was easier to find because there was less information to manage. In the new media world, we have infinite sources of information and use different vehicles to consume information (facebook, twitter, RSS, Email) which distances us from context given on the sites where the information was originally posted.
The Knight Information Project I built at the Community Foundation, YourPBC.org, used to mimic a traditional news site. Featured stories, multiple articles, all are very issue-driven, but anyone reading a new article still has no context unless they followed that series of articles from the beginning. What we found out was that lack of context leads to lack of engagement, which is bad for a site with a mission to engage the community on local issues.
Curating Content with Context
That’s why we moved towards providing context for issues – which means curating information. – The idea sprouted from one of my favorite technology blogs – Engadget. They curate their articles about specific product releases in what they call “hubs” – When I saw their hubs, I was inspired to create “Issue Pages” on YourPBC.org to help bring context back to local issues. No more useless one-off articles that fall into the abyss of information.
Citizens have changed the way they take in and act upon information – people now need much more context and are less likely to spend time to figure out the context on their own, even on important issues.
Our new approach implements “issue pages” – curated summary information on local issues, giving updates on that issue, background and history. In addition to the continually updated summary info, we have real-time articles that will be more in depth that “support” the updates in the summary through our “3i System” – inform, inspire, impact.
This way, no matter when you become aware of the issue , you have context – through our summary and 3i system. You can see what is being done (inform), what has been done (inspire) and what you can do (impact!) – and it is always be the most up-to-date information from our nonprofit contributors.
And while one will still be able to access an individual article on our site, it will always be in context (and visually and graphically identified) to the issue the article “serves.”
If you’re interested in more information on the idea of providing context to content, I’d recommend www.futureofcontext.com – You’ll see elements of my post today in the comments section of the “Get rid of articles and stories, follow topics” article.
[UPDATE: we've launched this revolutionary approach to community information on YourPBC.org. Check it out, and get involved in your community]
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