Posted by: structureofnews | August 12, 2010

The Magic Answer Machine

(Or: What Do Readers Want?)

I admit: I don’t know. But I’m guessing that in most cases, when readers look for anything that isn’t today’s news, they don’t want a long list of links to old stories. Maybe they want the Wikipedia entry, or a good topics page (more on this in another posting). But I’m pretty sure they don’t want to read six or seven stories written six months ago.

What they probably want is the Magic Answer Machine: Something that processes what they really want and gives them a reasonable facsimile of an answer. We probably can’t do that – but I bet we could do better than we’re doing now.

And more importantly, as we move from a push system of news delivery (you get a package every morning at 6 am) to the pull model (you get it when you’re in the mood to read about Botswana), it’s increasingly important for us to build the news product around how and when the reader might want it, not simply make available all the things we’ve written for a daily audience.


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